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SHORT STORIES IN CONTEXT 






Copyright, 19S3, by 


AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY 

All rights reserved 

No part of this book protected by 
the above copyright may be repro- 
duced in any form without written 
permission of the publisher. 


Ross and Wallace: 


SHORT STORIES IN CONTEXT E. P. i 


MADE U.S.A, 



CONTENTS 


Preface 

vii 

Some Definitions 

xi 

JOHN STEINBECK 

The Leader of the People 

1 

JAMES T. FARRELL 

A Front-page Story 

20 

W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 

Red 

32 

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 

Babylon Revisited 

57 

ERSKINE CALDWELL 

Man and Woman 

82 

JOSEPH CONRAD 

The Lagoon 

91 

EDITH WHARTON 

The Mission of Jane 

108 

KATHERINE MANSFIELD 

The DolFs House 

130 

Lifejof^Ma Parker 

138 

KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 

Maria Concepcion 

148 

TRUMAN CAPOTE 

Miriam 

170 


y 




CONTENTS 

THEODORE DREISER 

The Old Neighborhood 


183 

KAY BOYLE 

The First Lover 


212 

JAMES JOYCE 

Counterparts 


221 

VIRGINIA WOOLF 

The New Dress 


235 

ALDOUS HUXLEY 

The Claxtons 


248 

ERNEST HEMINGWAY 

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber 

279 

WILLIAM FAULKNER 

Delta Autumn 


315 

D. H. LAWRENCE 

Tickets, Please . 


342 

GERTRUDE STEIN 

Miss Furr and Miss Skeene 


360 



PREFACE 


This book offers more comprehensive statements concerning the life 
and works of each author represented than are found in most similar 
volumes, and a somewhat extended analysis of the basic ideas, the pe- 
culiar point — or points — of view, of each. These discussions of the 
authors constitute the context referred to in the title. 

We regard the discussions of the basic attitudes or ideas of the vari- 
ous writers as highly important. Few would _ think of attempting to 
teach any of the older English classics without knowing something 
of the general body of thought of its author. Slight as each short story 
printed here may be in quantity, it is written by a man who entertains 
certain beliefs, assumes toward life certain attitudes, and necessarily 
writes from the point of view which these beliefs and attitudes de- 
lineate. ‘‘The Claxtons” may be studied without reference to Aldous 
Huxley’s shifting opinions. But a student’s understanding of the story 
is certainly heightened when he discovers that at the time it was pub- 
lished Huxley was insisting that man finds value in life by being merely 
human, that man’s attempts to rise above the human level of living 
result in his falling below it. The westering horde in “The Leader of 
the People” becomes an animal in more than a symbolic sense to the 
reader who is aware of Steinbeck’s semi-mystical notions of the nature 
of groups, and the story becomes an illumination of something more 
than the behavior patterns of certain individuals who are in a sense 
typical To the reader familiar with Dreiser’s basic attitudes, “The 
Old Neighborhood,” fundamentally materialistic, full of pity for both 
strong and weak, and hinting at a vague supernatural presence, is not 
merely a tragic narrative, but a representative statement of Dreiser’s 
notions of human capacities and limitations. That Francis Macomber’s 
very brief period of genuine living is meant to represent triumph over 
evil and the maturation of human capacities, despite the limited area 
of Macomber’s development, becomes evident to one aware of the 
values which Hemingway has constantly emphasized. In fact, it is our 
opinion that the interpretation of every short story gains something — 
though certainly for some stories the gain is greater than for others 



PREFACE 


— from a study of its author’s fundamental attitudes. Even a statement 
of what he does not do or think is sometimes helpful — as, perhaps, in 
the case of Capote’s “Miriam.” 

We are conventional in that we present information concerning the 
authors’ lives and works, but we give more such information than do 
the editors of most similar collections — enough, we hope, to give stu- 
dents something more than mere vital statistics, and to suggest some 
qualities of these authors’ other books which they may find it interest- 
ing to read. 

It has been difiicult to decide how complete to make the bibliog- 
raphies of our authors’ works. We have not attempted rigid consist- 
ency. For the authors of a very high level of achievement who have 
not been very prolific (for instance, Hemingway and Woolf), we 
have listed all the major works. In treating others who have written 
large amounts, of which only a part seems to us of highest quality 
(Caldwell), we have been selective. In some instances the discussion 
of a man’s development has necessitated an analysis of the content of 
several of his books (Huxley); in others the attitudes of the author 
have changed so little, or are of such a character, that a description 
of them presents adequately the themes of the works, which can simply 
be listed by title (Maugham). We have treated the lives of our authors, 
too, as circumstances seem to demand. Steinbeck, the known facts 
of whose life have had obvious but superficial influences on his work 
(for instance, he lived in California and wrote stories about Califor- 
nians), gets briefer treatment than Lawrence, whose life dominated 
and controlled his work. 

We have provided selective bibliographies of criticism of each 
author. 

We have also devised sets of questions which may direct the stu- 
dent’s study. In these we have attempted to open three paths of ex- 
ploration. We have tried, first, to ask questions which cannot be 
answered unless the student thinks his way to an understanding of the 
principal characters and their acts, and, in some instances, measures 
the accuracy of the author’s representations^ as well as he can by re- 
ferring them to his own experiences. Second, we have tried to relate 
the content of the stories to the authors’ general attitudes,, described 
in the criticisms. In the critical essays we have deliberately refrained, 



PREFACE 


in almost all cases, from pointing out applications of the discussions 
to the stories in hand, preferring to have the student make his own 
discoveries, sometimes with the help of questions. Finally, in order 
to lead the student inductively to consider technical problems implicit 
in the stories immediately before him, we have asked questions con- 
cerning technique. On the whole, the questions are intended to sharpen 
the reader’s perceptive and critical faculties. Frequently, in our opin- 
ion, the particular answer which a student gives is of less importance 
than the fact that he has thought about the problem raised. 

We do not mean to imply that the questions which we ask are 
those which a reader should necessarily ask himself about these stories. 
They are the result of our thinking from our own point of view, and 
we realize of course that a different approach would produce other 
and valid questions. Some instructors may feel that any questions at 
all are bad because they inhibit the spontaneous reactions of the stu- 
dents. Those who do not find these questions helpful are advised to 
ignore them. 

At the beginning of the book we offer a short glossary of terms 
often used in literary discussions. 

We are placing critical material after, not before, each story. We 
do this to permit the student to approach the work of art without 
initial prejudices derived from us and to emphasize the fact that the 
principal object of his study is the story itself, not our criticisms 
of it. 

We have tried to select only stori^ by aut^^^^ wlm have m^ (or, 
in the case of one young man, may make) a definite cqnmbuLtiQn. to 
the English or. American literature, of our century. It seems to us that 
if a student is to invest his time in the study of short stories, it is 
economical, under most circumstances, for him to study stories by 
men and women who are important literary figures. He thus encoun- 
ters not merely stories worth studying but authors worth meeting. 
Always, of course, we have tried to select excellent stories, but wher- 
ever we have been in doubt as to which of two or three by a given 
author to print, we have selected the one which seems to us most 
representative of his work. 

We have attempted to arrange the stories in order of increasing 
difficulty. People’s ideas of what is difficult in literature differ so widely 

ix 



PREFACE 


that it hardly seems profitable to attempt any explanation of onr judg- 
ments in this matter. We are of the opinion, furthermore, that most 
English instructors rearrange the contents of collections to suit them- 
selves. To facilitate such rearrangement, we have made the critical 
apparatus for each story almost completely independent of ail the 
rest. 

We have made no effort to distinguish between British and Amer- 
ican stories. It is possible, of course, to stress the reflection of national 
differences in attitudes of writers, but it is not always necessary to do 
so. British and Ajnerican writers reflect the culture of the West, and 
the works of recent authors are all a part of the gigantic debate in the 
West concerning the nature of man and his possibilities. The failure 
to reach generally acceptable answers to the questions thus raised lies 
at the very root of the tremendous political and moral convulsions 
which torment us. In order to emphasize matters of primary impor- 
tance we have, in our interpretations and selections, rejected national- 
istic considerations and have tried to make clear the attitudes of our 
authors toward basic twentieth-century problems which agitate the 
Western world, or toward problems immediately derived from these. 

We wish to thank Professors Leslie L. Hanawalt and Joseph Prescott 
of the Department of English of Wayne University for reading the 
manuscript of this book and offering helpful criticism, and Professor 
Chester E. Jorgenson, also of the English Department at Wayne, for 
answering innumerable questions. 

W oodburn O. Ross 
A. Dayle Wallace 



SOME DEFINITIONS 


" A few definitions or explanations of terms which are sometimes used 
in critical discussion or which may arise in the classroom are given 
below for reference. Some of these words have been used for centuries 
and in many different areas of study, so that precise definitions which 
will cover all uses of them cannot be given. We state here only the 
senses in which we use them or in which they are likely to be used 
in discussions of short stories.^ 

f Determinism: The doctrine that man’s choices are not free but are 
imposed upon him. Some medieval determinists saw man as controlled 
by the will or foreknowledge of God; most twentieth-century deter- 
minists, by the functioning of natural law. According to these 
twentieth-century thinkers, man, wholly a physical being, cannot dp 
anything not dictated by the laws of nature (including those of his 
own nature). He is usually seen as responding in a very complicated 
but nevertheless automatic fashion to his environment. 

Didacticism: The tendency of a literary work toward explicit instruc- 
tion. In contemporary literature it .is usually regarded as an objection- 
able quality. Kterature, .it is felt, shquld_represent or interpret. In 
fiction, „when a writer gives the impression of having selected a general 
quality of nature or a general principle of morality and of having de- 
vised his characters or plot for the purpose of illustrating this quality 
or principle, he is being didactic. When he gives the impression of 
having begun with characters and situations which he tries to exhibit, 
illuminate, and explain, he is interpreting. Didacticism may be re- 
vealed by emphasis. When the writer of fiction emphasizes his por- 
trayal of character itself, or his representation of action, attempting 

^ Only nouns are included; the related adjectives, adverbs, and verbs are 
omitted. When we have a choice between related abstract and concrete 
nouns, we define the abstract. We assume that a student confronted by 
“determinist” or “romantic” will recognize that he can get help by consulting 
“determinism” or “romanticism.” Since the list is short, there is little chance 
for confusion. 

ici 



SOME DEFINITIONS 


primarily to make these clear and understandable, so that the general 
principles of life which they illustrate or upon which they depend 
are implicit rather than explicit, he interprets. If he emphasizes these 
principles and makes them explicit, he is didactic. 

Imagery: The representations called up in the mind by words of any 
of the sensory qualities of objects. Also the figures of speech which 
call up such qualities. Thus imagery involves the odors, appearances, 
sounds, and tastes of things, their hardness or softness, their tempera- 
ture, their roughness or smoothness. 

Interpretation: The revelation through literature of the significance 
of particular characters or their acts; or, to state the matter differently, 
the revelation through literature of the value (intellectual, ethical, 
social, political, religious, etc.) of particular characters or their acts. 
An author uses his own standards in determining what is significant or 
valuable. Thus an author’s interpretation of life in fiction is a full or 
partial statement of what h^’ considers the truth about man. On the 
difference between literary interpretation and instruction, see Didacti- 
cism. 

Mood: The emotional state produced by a story. By extension of 
meaning, this word is often used in description of a quality of the story 
itself, rather than of the reaction of the reader, as in the sentence “The 
mood of the story was joyous.” 

Mysticism: The doctrine that the nature of ultimate reality can be 
discovered by man only intuitively, through contemplation. Mysti- 
cism represents a means by which, according to its practitioners^ man 
can apprehend spontaneously and immediately — ^not through sense 
experience— the ultimate facts concerning his own nature , and the 
nature of the universe. The mystic usually is seeking God. 

Naturalism: The view that man is a part of the natural universe and 
is nothing more. He was produced by the functioning of natural law 
and is forever subject to it. He has a body but not a soul. He is strik- 
ingly like the other animals. His existence has no purpose which 


XII 



SOME DEFINITIONS 


transcends the physical universe and natural law. (These basic tenets 
of the naturalist will rarely be found explicitly expressed in imaginative 
literature but they form the foundation ‘ of the naturalist’s world, 
described just below, which does appear in literature.) The naturalist 
is characteristically a determinist. In his world, heredity or physiology 
and environment are likely to determine the fate of the individual. 
Survival or security are the objects of a struggle in which the fittest 
prevail. Tragedy lies in failure in the battle for life itself, for animal 
necessities or comforts, or for the satisfaction of primitive emotional 
urges. Nature, which demands survival at all costs, and humanitarian- 
jsm, which demands altruism, are in conflict. Lacking purpose above 
and beyond itself, day-to-day life is drab and frustrating, though 
people frequently face it with resolution and courage. Authors’ reti- 
cence about the physical functions of human beings diminishes as a 
result of the identification of man with the animal world, in which, 
of course, such functions, though of primary importance, are routine. 
It is not to be expected that any single story will illustrate all the 
aspects of the naturalist’s position, but because of the current popu- 
larity of naturalism, you should be able frequently to detect its influ- 
ence. 

Novel: A long, more or less fictitious narrative, generally in prose, 
dealing, by means of a plot, with the actions, problems, and characters 
of its principal figures. In general, the length of a novel permits its 
author, if he wishes, not merely to show these figures as they are at a 
given time, but to portray their development. The plots of novels are 
usually considerably more complex than those of short stories. In a 
novel an author can generally illustrate much more fully his interpreta- 
tion of life than he can in a short story. It is, however, impossible to 
say definitely where the boundaries between the novel and the short 
story lie. 

Objectivity: A mental or temjgeramental quality of an author which 
leads him to write about events and t hings as they aSn aUy-a ppear to 
the senses, uncolored by his ow n opinio ns or emo tions . Also a quality 
of the writing produced by an objective author. An objective writer 
tries to be impartial, disinterested, impersonal; he emph asizes concr ete 

xiii 



SOME DEFINITIONS 


description and anai;g^sis of e^ernals^ Naturaiists and other realists tend 
to be, or to attempt to be, objectiverSee Subjectivity . 

Plot: The series of events of which a work of fiction is composed. In 
a conventional s4ort story the plot can usually be divided into three 
parts: the rising action, composed of the incidents which develop the 
narrative and point toward the climax, which will follow; the clirnax 
itself, the point of highest interest; and the denouement, quke brief, 
in which the action is brought to a conclusion. In some stories plot is 
emphasized; in others, where character or mood is stressed, it may 
become unimportant. 

Realism: The theory that literature should represent life. and the 
world as they actually are. Also, such a representation. T he real isi; 
at tem pts to discover norms of life through objecti ve ex ammarion of 
the data life ij^elf yields. Obviously, judgments of what is realist ic 
vfill ch an ge from time to tim e as trxan’s opinion of the nature of mality 
c hang es. See Naturalism and Objectivity, 

Romanticism: A body o f attitu des^ embracing a combination of the 
following: an affirmation of the idealsj)f_faith, hop e, l ov^ gallantty, 
and chival^; an interest in ad venturo us actmn and in unusual settings 
(perhaps the long ago or far away, perhaps rarely encountered por- 
tions of the contemporary home scene); a.. co ncern with.. „human 

emotions, feelings, sentiments, and with events which tend particularly 
to produce these; a sympathy fo r the indiyidual in his struggle a gain st 
r estrictive forces in ^ nature and soci ety; a belief in ma n’s infi nite capac- 
ity for improvement. To be called romantic, a literary work must 
illustrate or exhibit some of these qualities, but of course no one 
work would be expected to contain them all Injtttitude, th e au thors 
of r ornantic fiction tend to appear ^motional and subjective, (see defi- 
nition). Take care* when you are thinking about literature not to 
regard the word ‘komantic” as meaning amorous. 

Se^ng: The phy sical, temporal, and soc iaj^env ironment i n which a 
s!:ory is laid. Sometimes this word is also used of the mood^prqduced 
by these surroundings, as in the phrase *‘a setting of gloom.” 

xiv 



SOME DEFINITIONS 


Sentimentality: JExcess ive or It arises from the 

attempt of authors to arouse a greater emotional response in readers 
than the situation being presented seems to warrant. It is regarded as 
objectionable because it seems to involve falsification and i nsincerity 
and because it suggests inabilky o n the pa r t of an autho r to contemplate 
lifg^jyith,ja ^.ropriate self -control 

Short Story: Aort narrative, u sually fictitio us^ al most always in 

prose^, which does one or more of the foll owing: creates a mood, 
illuminates a character or two, de velops a single se ries o:^events. It is 
almost impossible to define the point at which a long short story 
becomes a novel, yet most critics recognize the short story as a dis- 
tinct literary form. The qualities which distinguish it from the novel 
are imposed by its brevity. Thus, character in the short story is usually 
illuminated and not developed — ^that is, the qualities o f a c h aracter d o 
not usually c hange in the course .of the sto^ — ^because s pace does no t 
permi t development. A short stdry rarely has more tha n one threail 
©faction, and the .possibl e complexity x>{ its-plot (see definition) is in 
part determined by the importance in the story of the revelation of 
character. In general, the more character is explored, the l ess comple x 
thsjpfttern of the naixgtivq is likely to be. Short stories m ay jresemble 
poe ms in the ir attempt to .captur e the mood or feej iiigi^imp licit in a 
situation. Their brevity makes possible the creation of a , unified , 

emotional effect which is usually denied to the novel. 

— — - — ». — ^ — * r 

Stream-of -Consciousness Technique: A technique in which the au- 
thor attempts to create a aembl ance of or xeymo— 

i n a .personas min d. ReaUt y thus represented is marked by apparent 
triviality^ and by detail and la ck of or der. In traditional literature the ^» 
arrangement of tho ught and event is much more -Qrd£jily. and selective. 
See the discussion in the essay on James Joyce. 

Subjectivity: A mental or temperamental quality of an author which 
leads him t o write about ev ents a n d things no t as they clearly appear 
to the senses, not as they would probably be seen by most unbiased 
observers, but as they are c olored by hi s o wn perso nality, v alues^ con- 
victions, and ideals. Also a quality of the writing produced by a 


XV 



SOME DEFINITIONS 


subjective author. Necessarily a ll writ ers of fiction are somewhat sub- 
jective, for no one can escape his own personaEfy. Butthe subjective 
Witer is one who makes n o attemp t, or fails in his at tempt, to achieve 
an impersonal, unbiased view ofjthings; he tells the truth st ri ctly ■as he 
persona lly se es it. Romantics tend to be subjective. See Objectivity. 

Symbol: That which represents something else: for example, the 
scarlet A of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Thus, a character may 
represent an attraction, such as beau ty o r the f ear of Ipneliness; or 
something concrete, such as another chara cter or characters, real or 
imaginary. A situation or action, too, may be symbolic, as when the 
journey of one man is made to represent a possible mode of life for 
all men. 

Theme: The principle or idea which a work of ficti on illustrates or 
with which an author deals in a substantial portion of his work. To 
determine the theme of a particular story, answer the question “Wliat 
does this story suggest or reveal?” without telling the plot. 


xvi 




THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 

On Saturday afternoon Billy Buck, the ranch- 
hand, raked together the last of the old year’s haystack and pitched 
small forkfuls over the wire fence to a few mildly interested cattle. 
High in the air small clouds like puffs of cannon smoke were driven 
eastward by the March wind. The wind could be heard whishing in 
the brush on the ridge crests, but no breath of it penetrated down into 
the ranch-cup. 

The little boy, Jody, emerged from the house eating a thick piece 
of buttered bread. He saw Billy working on the last of the haystack. 
Jody tramped down scuffing his shoes in a way he had been told was 
destructive to good shoe-leather. A flock of white pigeons flew out of 
the black cypress tree as Jody passed, and circled the tree and landed 
again. A half-grown tortoise-shell cat leaped from the bunkhouse 
porch, galloped on stiff legs across the road, whirled and galloped back 
again. Jody picked up a stone to help the game along, but he was too 
late, for the cat was under the porch before the stone could be dis- 
charged. He threw the stone into the cypress tree and started the 
white pigeons on another whirling flight. 

Arriving at the used-up haystack, the boy leaned against the barbed 
wire fence. “Will that be all of it, do you think?” he asked. 

The middle-aged ranch-hand stopped his careful raking and stuck 
his fork into the ground. He took off his black hat and smoothed 
down his hair. “Nothing left of it that isn’t soggy from ground mois- 

From The Fortable Steinbeck, copyright, 1938, 1943, by John Steinbeck. 
Reprinted by permission of The Viking Press, Inc,, New York. 


1 



JOHN STEINBECK 


ture,” he said. He replaced his hat and rubbed his dry leathery hands 
together. 

“Ought to be plenty mice,” Jody suggested. 

“Lousy with them,” said Billy. “Just crawling with mice.” 

“Well, maybe, when you get all through, I could call the dogs and 
hunt the mice.” 

“Sure, I guess you could,” said Billy Buck. He lifted a forkful of the 
damp ground-hay and threw it into the air. Instantly three mice leaped 
out and burrowed frantically under the hay again. 

Jody sighed with satisfaction. " Those plump, sleek, arrogant mice 
were doomed. For eight months they had lived and multiplied in the 
haystack. They had been immune from cats, from traps, from poison 
and from Jody. They had grown smug in their security, overbearing 
and fat. Now the time of disaster had come; they would not survive 
another day. 

Billy looked up at the top of the hills that surrounded the ranch. 
“Maybe you better ask your father before you do it,” he suggested. 

“Well, where is he? ITl ask him now.” 

“He rode up to the ridge ranch after dinner. Hell be back pretty 
•soon.” 

Jody slumped against the fence post. “I don’t think he’d care.” 

As Billy went back to his work he said ominously, “You’d better ask 
him anyway. You know how he is.” 

Jody did know. His father, Carl Tiflin, insisted upon giving permis- 
sion for anything that was done on the ranch, whether it was impor- 
tant or not. Jody sagged farther against the post until he was sitting 
on the ground. He looked up at the little puffs of wind-driven cloud. 
“Is it like to rain, Billy?” 

“It might. The wind’s good for it, but not strong enough.” 

“Well, I hope it don’t rain until after I kill those damn mice.” He 
looked over his shoulder to see whether Billy had noticed the mature 
profanity. Billy worked on without comment. 

Jody turned back and looked at the side-hill where the road from 
the outside world came down. The hill was washed with lean March 
sunshine. Silver thistles, blue lupins and a few poppies bloomed among 
the sage bushes. Halfway up the hill Jody could see Doubletree Mutt, 
the iblack dog, digging in a squirrel hole. He paddled for a while and 

2 



THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 


then paused to kick bursts of dirt out between his hind legs, and he 
dug with an earnestness which belied the knowledge he must have had 
that no dog had ever caught a squirrel by digging in a hole. 

Suddenly, while Jody watched, the black dog stiifened, and backed 
out of the hole and looked up the hill toward the cleft in the ridge 
where the road came through. Jody looked up too. For a moment Carl 
Tiffin on horseback stood out against the pale sky and then he moved 
down the road toward the house. He carried something white in his 
hand. 

The boy started to his feet. “He’s got a letter,” Jody cried. He 
trotted away toward the ranch house, for the letter would probably 
be read aloud and he wanted to be there. He reached the house before 
his father did, and ran in. He heard Carl dismount from his creaking 
saddle and slap the horse on the side to send it to the barn where Billy 
would unsaddle it and turn it out. 

Jody ran into the kitchen. “We got a letter!” he cried. 

His mother looked up from a pan of beans. “Who has?” 

“Father has. I saw it in his hand.” 

Carl strode into the kitchen then, and Jody’s mother asked, “Who’s 
the letter from, Carl?” 

He frowned quickly. “How did you know there was a letter?” 

She nodded her head in the boy’s direction. “Big-Britches Jody told 
me.”‘ 

Jody was embarrassed. 

His father looked down at him contemptuously. “He is getting to 
be a Big-Britches,” Carl said. “He’s minding everybody’s business but 
his own. Got his big nose into everything.” 

Mrs. Tiffin relented a little. “Well, he hasn’t enough to keep him 
busy. Who’s the letter from?” 

Carl still frowned on Jody. “I’ll keep him busy if he isn’t careful.” 
He held out a sealed letter. “I guess it’s. from your father.” 

Mrs. Tiffin took a hairpin from her head and slit open the flap. Her 
lips pursed judiciously. Jody saw her eyes snap back and forth over the 
lines. “He says,” she translated, “he says he’s going to drive out Sat- 
urday to stay for a little while. Why, this is Saturday. The letter must 
have been delayed.” She looked at the postmark. “This was mailed day 
before yesterday. It should have been here yesterday.” She looked up 

3 



JOHN STEINBECK 


questioningly at her husband, and then her face darkened angrily. 
“Now what have you got that look on you for? He doesn’t come 
often.” 

Carl turned his eyes away from her anger. He could be stern with 
her most of the time,' but when occasionally her temper arose, he could 
not combat it. 

“What’s the matter with you?” she demanded again. 

In his explanation there was a tone of apology Jody himself might 
have used. “It’s just that he talks,” Carl said lamely, “Just talks.” 

“Well, what of it? You talk yourself.” 

“Sure I do. But your father only talks about one thing.” 

“Indians!” Jody broke in excitedly. “Indians and crossing the 
plains!” 

Carl turned fiercely on him. “You get out, Mr. Big-Britches! Go on, 
now! Get out!” 

Jody went miserably out the back door and closed the screen with 
elaborate quietness. Under the kitchen window his shamed, downcast 
eyes fell upon a curiously shaped stone, a stone of such fascination 
that he squatted down and picked it up and turned it over in his hands. 

The voices came clearly to him through the open kitchen window. 
“Jody’s damn well right,” he heard his father say. “Just Indians and 
crossing the plains. I’ve heard that story about how the horses got 
driven off about a thousand times. He just goes on and on, and he 
never changes a word in the things he tells.” 

When Mrs. Tifiin answered her tone was so changed that Jody, out- 
side the window, looked up from his study of the stone. Her voice had 
become soft and explanatory. Jody knew how her face would have 
changed to match the tone. She said quietly, “Took at it this way, Carl. 
That was the big thing in my father’s life. He led a wagon train clear 
across the plains to the coast, and when it was finished, his life was 
done. It was a big thing to do, but it didn’t last long enough. Look!” 
she continued, “it’s as though he was born to do that, and after he fin- 
ished it, there wasn’t anything more for him to do but think about it 
and talk about it. If there’d been any farther west to go, he’d have 
gone. He’s told me so himself. But at last there was the ocean. He 
lives right by the ocean where he had to stop.” 

She had caught Carl, caught him and entangled him in her soft tone. 


4 



THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 


“Fve seen him,” he agreed quietly. “He goes down and stares off 
west over the ocean.” His voice sharpened a little. “And then he goes 
up to the Horseshoe Club in Pacific Grove, and he tells people how 
the Indians drove off the horses.” 

She tried to catch him again. “Well, it’s everything to him. You 
might be patient with him and pretend to listen.” 

Carl turned impatiently away. “Well, if it gets too bad, I can always 
go down to the bunkhouse and sit with Billy,” he said irritably. He 
walked through the house and slammed the front door after him. 

Jody ran to his chores. He dumped the grain to the chickens without 
chasing any of them. He gathered the eggs from the nests. He trotted 
into the house with the wood and interlaced it so carefully in the 
wood-box that two armloads seemed to fill it to overflowing. 

His mother had finished the beans by now. She stirred up the fire 
and brushed off the stove-top with a turkey wing. Jody peered cau- 
tiously at her to see whether any rancor toward him remained. “Is he 
coming today Jody asked. 

“That’s what his letter said.” 

“Maybe I better walk up the road to meet him.” 

Mrs. Tiflin clanged the stove-lid shut. “That would be nice,” she 
said. “He’d probably like to be met.” 

“I guess rU just do it then.” 

Outside, Jody whistled shrilly to the dogs. “Come on up the hill,” 
he commanded. The two dogs waved their tails and ran ahead. Along 
the roadside the sage had tender new tips. Jody tore off some pieces 
and rubbed them on his hands until the air was filled with the sharp 
wild smell. With a rush the dogs leaped from the road and yapped into 
the brush after a rabbit. That was the last Jody saw of them, for when 
they failed to catch the rabbit, they went back home. 

Jody plodded on up the hill toward the ridge top. When he reached 
the little cleft where the road came through, the afternoon wind struck 
him and blew up his hair and ruffled his shirt. He looked down on the 
little hills and ridges below and then out at the huge green Salinas Val- 
ley. He could see the white town of Salinas far out in the flat and the 
flash of its windows under the waning sun. Directly below him, in 
an oak tree, a crow congress had convene^. The tree was black with 
crows all cawing at once* 



JOHN STEINBECK 


Then Jody’s eyes followed the wagon road down from the ridge 
where he stood, and lost it behind a hill, and picked it up again on the 
other side. On that distant stretch he saw a cart slowly pulled by a bay 
horse. It disappeared behind the hill. Jody sat down on the ground and 
watched the place where the cart would reappear again. The wind 
sang on the hilltops and the puff-ball clouds hurried eastward. 

Then the cart came into sight and stopped. A man dressed in black 
dismounted from the seat and walked to the horse’s head. Although 
it was so far away, Jody knew he had unhooked the check-rein, for 
the horse’s head dropped forward. The horse moved on, and the man 
walked slowly up the hill beside it. Jody gave a glad cry and ran down 
the road toward them. The squirrels bumped along off the road, 
and a road-runner flirted its tail and raced over the edge of the hill 
and sailed out like a glider. 

Jody tried to leap into the middle of his shadow at every step. A 
stone roiled under his foot and he went down. Around a little bend 
he raced, and there, a short distance ahead, were his grandfather and 
the cart. The boy dropped from his unseemly running and approached 
at a dignified walk. 

The horse plodded stumble-footedly up the hill and the old man 
walked beside it. In the lowering sun their giant shadow^ flickered 
darkly behind them. The grandfather was dressed in a black broad- 
cloth suit and he wore kid congress gaiters and a black tie on a short, 
hard collar. He carried his black slouch hat in his hand. His white 
beard was cropped close and his white eyebrows overhung his eyes 
like moustaches. The blue eyes were sternly merry. About the whole 
face and figure there was a granite dignity, so that every motion 
seemed an impossible thing. Once at rest, it seemed the old man would 
be stone, would never move again. His steps were slow and certain. 
Once made, no step could ever be retraced; once headed in a direction, 
the path would never bend nor the pace increase nor slow. 

When Jody appeared around the bend, Grandfather wa^/ed his hat 
slowly in welcome, and 'he called, ‘‘Why, Jody! Come down to meet 
me, have you?” \ 

Jody sidled near and turned and matched his step to the old man’s 
step and stiffened his body and dragged his heels a little. “Yes, sir,” he 
said. “We got your lettermnly today.” 

6 



THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 


‘‘Should h-ave been here yesterday,” said Grandfather. ‘Tt certainly 
should. How are all the folks?” 

“They’re fine, sir.” He hesitated and then suggested shyly, “Would 
you like to come on a mouse hunt tomorrow, sir? ” 

“Mouse hunt, Jody?” Grandfather chuckled. “Have the people of 
this generation come down to hunting mice? They aren’t very strong, 
the new people, but I hardly thought mice would be game for them.” 

“No, sir. It’s just play. The haystack’s gone. I’m going to drive out 
the mice to the dogs. And you can watch, or even beat the hay a 
little.” 

The stern, merry eyes turned down on him. “I see. You don’t eat 
them, then. You haven’t come to that yet.” 

Jody explained, “The dogs eat them, sir. It wouldn’t be much like 
hunting Indians, I guess.” 

“No, not much — ^but then later, when the troops were hunting 
Indians and shooting children and burning teepees, it wasn’t much dif- 
ferent from your mouse hunt.” 

They topped the rise and started down into the ranch-cup, and they 
lost the sun from their shoulders. “You’ve grown,” Grandfather said. 
“Nearly an inch, I should say.” 

“More,” Jody boasted. “Where they mark me on the door, I’m up 
more than an inch since Thanksgiving even.” 

Grandfather’s rich throaty voice said, “Maybe you’re getting too 
much water and turning to pith and stalk. Wait until you head out, 
and then we’ll see.” 

Jody looked quickly into the old man’s face to see whether his feel- 
ings should be hurt, but there was no will to injure, no punishing nor 
putting-in-your-place light in the keen blue eyes. “We might kill a 
pig,” Jody suggested. 

“Oh, no! I couldn’t let you do that. You’re just humoring me. It 
isn’t the time and you know it.” 

“You know Riley, the big boar, sir?” 

“Yes. I remember Riley weU.” 

“Well, Riley ate a hole into that same haystack, and it fell down on 
him and smothered him.” 

“ftgs do that when they can,” said Grandfather. 


7 



JOHN STEINBECK 


“Riley was a nice pig, for a boar, sir. I rode him sometimes, and he 
didn’t mind.” 

A door slammed at the House below them, and they saw Jody’s 
mother standing on the porch waving her apron in welcome. And they 
saw Carl Tiflin walldng up from the barn to be at the house for the 
arrival. 

The sun had disappeared from the hills by now. The blue smoke 
from the house chimney hung in flat layers in the purpling ranch-cup. 
The puff-ball clouds, dropped by the failing wind, hung listlessly in 
the sky. 

Billy Buck came out of the bunkhouse and flung a wash basin of 
soapy water on the ground. He had been shaving in mid-week, for 
Billy held Grandfather in reverence, and Grandfather said that Billy 
was one of the few men of the new generation who had not gone soft. 
Although Billy was in middle age, Grandfather considered him a boy. 
Now Billy was hurrying toward the house too. 

When Jody and Grandfather arrived, the three were waiting for 
them in front of the yard gate. 

Carl said, “Hello, sir. WeVe been looking for you.” 

Mrs. Tiflin kissed Grandfather on the side of his beard, and stood 
still while his big hand patted her shoulder. Billy shook hands sol- 
emnly, grinning under his straw moustache. “I’ll put up your horse,” 
said Billy, and he led the rig away. 

Grandfather watched him go, and then, turning back to the group, 
he said as he had said a hundred times before, “There’s a good boy. 
I knew his father, old Mule-tail Buck. I never knew why they called 
him Mule-tail except he packed mules.” 

Mrs. Tiflin turned and led the way into the house. “How long are 
you going to stay, Father? Your letter didn’t say.” 

“Well, I don’t know. I thought I’d stay about two weeks. But I 
never stay as long as I think I’m going to.” 

In a short while they were sitting at the white oilcloth table eating 
their supper. The lamp with the tin reflector hung over the table. Out- 
side the dining-room windows the big moths battered softly against 
the glass. 

Grandfather cut his steak into tiny pieces and chewed slowly. “I’m 
hungry,” he said. “Driving out here got my appetite up. It’s like when 

8 



THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 


we were crossing. We all got so hungry every night we could hardly 
wait to let the meat get done. I could eat about five pounds of buffalo 
meat every night.” 

“It’s moving around does it,” said Billy. “My father was a govern- 
ment packer. I helped him when I was a kid. Just the two of us could 
about clean up a deer’s ham.” 

“I knew your father, Billy,” said Grandfather. “A fine man he was. 
They called him Mule-tail Buck, I don’t know why except he packed 
mules.” 

“That was it,” Billy agreed. “He packed mules.” 

Grandfather put down his knife and fork and looked around the 
table. “I remember one time we ran out of meat — ” His voice dropped 
to a curious low sing-song, dropped into a tonal groove the story had 
worn for itself. “There was no buffalo, no antelope, not even rabbits. 
The hunters couldn’t even shoot a coyote, That was the time for the 
leader to be on the watch. I was the leader, and I kept my eyes open. 
Know why? Well, just the minute the people began to get hungry 
they’d start slaughtering the team oxen. Do you believe that? I’ve 
heard of parties that just ate up their draft cattle. Started from the 
middle and worked toward the ends. Finally they’d eat the lead pair, 
and then the wheelers. The leader of a party had to keep them from 
doing that.” 

In some manner a big moth got into the room and circled the hang- 
ing kerosene lamp. Billy got up and tried to clap it between his hands. 
Carl struck with a cupped palm and caught the moth and broke it. He 
walked to the window and dropped it out. 

“As I was saying,” Grandfather began again, but Carl interrupted 
him. “You’d better eat some more meat. All the rest of us are ready 
for our pudding.” 

Jody saw a flash of anger in his mother’s eyes. Grandfather picked 
up his knife and fork. “I’m pretty hungry, all right,” he said. “I’ll tell 
you about that later.” 

. When supper was over, when the family and Billy Buck sat in front 
of the fireplace in the other room, Jody anxiously watched Grand- 
father. He saw the signs he knew. The bearded head leaned forward; 
the eyes lost their sternness and looked wonderingly into the fire; the 
big lean fingers laced themselves on the black knees. “I wonder,” he 

9 



JOHN STEINBECK 


began, “I just wonder whether I ever told you how those thieving 
Piutes drove off thirty-five of our horses.” 

think you did,” Carl interrupted. ‘Wasn’t it just before you went 
up into the Tahoe country?” 

Grandfather turned quickly toward his son-in-law. “That’s right. 
I guess I must have told you that story.” 

“Lots of times,” Carl said cruelly, and he avoided his wife’s eyes. 
But he felt the angry eyes on him, and he said, “ ’Course I’d like to 
hear it again.” 

Grandfather looked back at the fire. His fingers unlaced and laced 
again. Jody knew how he felt, how his insides were collapsed and 
empty. Hadn’t Jody been called a Big-Britches that very afternoon? 
He arose to heroism and opened himself to the term Big-Britches 
again. “Tell about Indians,” he said softly. 

Grandfather’s eyes grew stern again. “Boys always want to hear 
about Indians. It was a job for men, but boys want to hear about it. 
Well, let’s see. Did I ever tell you how I wanted each wagon to carry 
a long iron plate?” 

Everyone but Jody remained silent. Jody said, “No. You didn’t.” 

“Well, when the Indians attacked, we always put the wagons in a 
circle and fought from between the wheels. I thought that if every 
wagon carried a long plate with rifle holes, the men could stand the 
plates on the outside of the wheels when the wagons were in the circle 
and they would be protected. It would save lives and that would make 
up for the extra weight of the iron. But of course the party wouldn’t 
do it. No party had done it before and they couldn’t see why they 
should go to the expense. They lived to regret it, too.” 

Jody looked at his mother, and knew from her expression that she 
was not listening at all. Carl picked at a callus on his thumb and Billy 
Buck watched a spider crawling up the wall. 

Grandfather’s tone dropped into its narrative groove again. Jody 
knew in advance exactly what words would fall. The story droned 
on, speeded up for the attack, grew sad over the wounds, struck a 
dirge at the burials on the great plains. Jody sat quietly watching 
Grandfather. The stern blue eyes were detached. He looked as though 
he were not very interested in the story himself. 

When it was finished, when the pause had been politely respected as 

10 



the leader of the people 


the frontier of the story, Billy Buck stood up and stretched and 
hitched his trousers. “I guess Fll turn in,” he said. Then he faced 
Grandfather. “I’ve got an old powder horn and a cap and bail pistol 
down to the bunkhouse. Did I ever show them to you? ” 

Grandfather nodded slowly. “Yes, I think you did, Billy. Reminds 
me of a pistol I had when I was leading the people across,” Billy stood 
politely until the little story was done, and then he said, “Good night,” 
and went out of the house. 

Carl Tidin tried to turn the conversation then. “How’s the country 
between here and Monterey? I’ve heard it’s pretty dry.” 

“It is dry,” said Grandfather. “There’s not a drop of water in the 
Laguna Seca. But it’s a long pull from ’87. The whole country was 
powder then, and in ’61 I believe all the coyotes starved to death. We 
had fifteen inches of rain this year.” 

“Yes, but it all came too early. We could do with some now.” Carl’s 
eye fell on Jody. “Hadn’t you better be getting to bed?” 

Jody stood up obediently. “Can I kill the mice in the old haystack, 
sir?” 

“Mice? Oh! Sure, kill them all off. BiUy said there isn’t any good 
hay left.” 

Jody exchanged a secret and satisfying look with Grandfather. “I’ll 
kill every one tomorrow,” he promised. 

Jody lay in his bed and thought of the impossible world of Indians 
and buffaloes, a world that had ceased to be forever. He wished he 
could have been living in the heroic time, but he knew he was not of 
heroic timber. No one living now, save possibly Billy Buck, was 
worthy to do the things that had been done. A race of giants had lived 
then, fearless men, men of a staunchness unknown in this day. Jody 
thought of the wide plains and of the wagons moving across like centi- 
pedes. He thought of Grandfather on a huge white horse, marshaling 
the people. Across his mind marched the great phantoms, and they 
marched off the earth and they were gone. 

He came back to the ranch for a moment, then. He heard the dull 
rushing sound that space and silence make. He heard one of the dogs, 
out in the doghouse, scratching a fiea and bumping his elbow against 
the floor with every stroke. Then the wind arose again and the black 
cypress groaned and Jody went to sleep. 

n 



JOHN STEINBECK 


He was up half an hour before the triangle sounded for breakfast. 
His mother was rattling the stove to make the flames roar when Jody 
went through the kitchen. “You’re up early,” she said. “Where are you 
going?” 

“Out to get a good stick. We’re going to kill the mice today.” 

“Who is Ve’?” 

“Why, Grandfather and I.” 

“So you’ve got him in it. You always like to have someone in with 
yon in case there’s blame to share.” 

“I’ll be right back,” said Jody. “I just want to have a good stick 
ready for after breakfast.” 

He closed the screen door after him and went out into the cool blue 
morning. The birds were noisy in the dawn and the ranch cats came 
down from the hill like blunt snakes. They had been hunting gophers 
in the dark, and although the four cats were full of gopher meat, they 
sat in a semi-circle at the back door and mewed piteously for milk. 
Doubletree Mutt and Smasher moved sniffing along the edge of the 
brush, performing the duty with rigid ceremony, but when Jody 
whistled, their heads jerked up and their tails waved. They plunged 
down to him, wriggling their skins and yawning. Jody patted their 
heads seriously, and moved on to the weathered scrap pile. He selected 
an old broom handle and a short piece of inch-square scrap wood. 
From his pocket he took a shoelace and tied the ends of the sticks 
loosely together to make a flail. He whistled his new weapon through 
the air and struck the ground experimentally, while the dogs leaped 
aside and whined with apprehension. 

Jody turned and started down past the house toward the old hay- 
stack ground to look over the field of slaughter, but Billy Buck, sitting 
patiently on the back steps, called to him, “You better come back. It’s 
only a couple of minutes till breakfast.” 

Jody changed his course and moved toward the house. He leaned 
his flail against the steps. “That’s to drive the mice out,” he said. “I’ll 
bet they’re fat. I’ll bet they don’t know what’s going to happen to 
them today.” 

“No, nor you either,” Billy remarked philosophically, “nor me, nor 
anyone.” 

Jody was staggered by this thought. He knew it was true. His im- 


12 



THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 


agination twitched away from the mouse hunt. Then his mother came 
out on the back porch and struck the triangle, and ail thoughts fell in 
a heap. 

Grandfather hadn’t appeared at the table when they sat down. Billy 
nodded at his empty chair. “He’s all right? He isn’t sick? ” 

“He takes a long time to dress,” said Mrs. Tiffin. “He combs his 
whiskers and rubs up his shoes and brushes his clothes.” 

Carl scattered sugar on his mush. “A man that’s led a wagon train 
across the plains has got to be pretty careful how he driesses.” 

Mrs. Tiffin turned on him. “Don’t do that, Carl! Please don’t!” 
There was more of threat than of request in her tone. And the threat 
irritated Carl. 

“Well, how many times do I have to listen to the story of the iron 
plates, and the thirty-five horses? That time’s done. Why can’t he for- 
get it, now it’s done?” He grew angrier while he talked, and his voice 
rose. “Why does he have to tell them over and over? He came across 
the plains. All right! Now it’s finished. Nobody wants to hear about it 
over and over.” 

The door into the kitchen closed softly. The four at the table sat 
frozen. Carl laid his mush spoon on the table and touched his chin with 
his fingers. 

Then the kitchen door opened and Grandfather walked in. His 
mouth smiled tightly and his eyes were squinted. “Good morning,” he 
said, and he sat down and looked at his mush dish. 

Carl could not leave it there. “Did — did you hear what I said?” 

Grandfather jerked a little nod. 

“I don’t know what got into me, sir. I didn’t mean it. I was just being 
funny.” 

Jody glanced in shame at his mother, and he saw that she was look- 
ing at Carl, and that she wasn’t breathing. It was an awful thing that 
he was doing. He was tearing himself to pieces to talk like that. It was 
a terrible thing to him to retract a word, but to retract it in shame was 
infinitely worse. 

Grandfather looked sidewise. “I’m trying to get right side up,” he 
said gently. “I’m not being mad. I don’t mind what you said, but it 
might be true, and I would mind that.” 


13 



JOHN STEINBECK 


‘‘It isn’t true,” said Carl. “Fm not feeling well this morning. Fm 
sorry I said it.” 

“Don’t be sorry, Carl. An old man doesn’t see things sometimes. 
Maybe you’re right. The crossing is finished. Maybe it should be for- 
gotten, now it’s done.” 

Carl got up from the table. “I’ve had enough to eat. Fm going to 
work. Take your time, Billy!” He walked quickly out of the dining- 
room. Billy gulped the rest of his food and followed soon after. But 
Jody could not leave his chair. 

“Won’t you tell any more stories?” Jody asked. 

“Why, sure I’ll tell them, but only when — ^I’m sure people want to 
hear them.” 

“I like to hear them, sir.” 

“Oh! Of course you do, but you’re a little boy. It was a job for men, 
but only little boys like to hear about it.” 

Jody got up from his place. “I’ll wait outside for you, sir. I’ve got a 
good stick for those mice.” 

He waited by the gate until the old man came out on the porch. 
“Let’s go down and kill the mice now,” Jody called. 

“I think I’ll just sit in the sun, Jody. You go kill the mice.” 

“You can use my stick if you like.” 

“No, I’ll just sit here a while.” 

Jody turned disconsolately away, and walked down toward the old 
haystack. He tried to whip up his enthusiasm with thoughts of the 
fat juicy mice. He beat the ground with his flail The dogs coaxed and 
whined about him, but he could not go. Back at the house he could see 
Grandfather sitting on the porch, looking small and thin and black. 

Jody gave up and went to sit on the steps at the old man’s feet. 

“Back already? Did you kill the mice?” 

“No, sir. I’ll kill them some other day.” 

The morning flies buzzed close to the ground and the ants dashed 
about in front of the steps. The heavy smell of sage slipped down the 
hill. The porch boards grew warm in the sunshine. 

Jody hardly knew when Grandfather started to talk. “I shouldn’t 
stay here, feeling the way I do.” He examined his strong old hands. “I 
feel as though the crossing wasn’t worth doing.” His eyes moved up 
the side-hill and stopped on a motionless hawk perched on a dead 

14 



THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 


limb. ‘‘I teli those old stories, but they’re not what I want to tell. I only 
know how I want people to feel when I tell them. 

“It wasn’t Indians that were important, nor adventures, nor even 
getting out here. It was a whole bunch of people made into one big 
crawling beast. And I was the head. It was westering and westering. 
Every man wanted something for himself, but the big beast that was 
all of them wanted only westering. I was the leader, but if I hadn’t 
been there, someone else would have been the head. The thing had to 
have a head. 

“Under the little bushes the shadows were black at white noonday. 
When we saw the mountains at last, we cried — all of us. But it wasn’t 
getting here that mattered, it was movement and westering. 

“We carried life out here and set it down the way those ants carry 
eggs. And I was the leader. The westering was as big as God, and the 
slow steps that made the movement piled up and piled up until the 
continent was crossed. 

“Then we came down to the sea, and it was done.” He stopped and 
wiped his eyes until the rims were red. “That’s what I should be telling 
instead of stories.” 

When Jody spoke. Grandfather started and looked down at him. 
“Maybe I could lead the people some day,” Jody said. 

The old man smiled. “There’s no place to go. There’s the ocean to 
stop you. There’s a line of old men along the shore hating the ocean 
because it stopped them.” 

^‘In ‘boats I might, sir.” 

“No place to go, Jody. Every place is taken. But that’s not the worst 
— ^no, not the worst. Westering has died out of the people. Westering 
isn’t a hunger any more. It’s all done. Your father is right. It is fin- 
ished.” He laced his fingers on his knee and looked at them. 

Jody felt very sad. “If you’d like a glass of lemonade I could make it 
for you.” 

Grandfather was about to refuse, and then he saw Jody’s face. “That 
would be nice,” he said. “Yes, it would be nice to drink a lemonade.” 

Jody ran into the kitchen where his mother was wiping the last of 
the breakfast dishes. “Can I have a lemon to make a lemonade for 
Grandfather?” 


15 



JOHN STEIHBECK 


His mother mimicked — “And another lemon to make a lemonade 
for you.” 

“No, ma’am. I don’t want one.” 

“Jody! You’re sick!” Then she stopped suddenly. “Take a lemon out 
of the cooler,” she said softly. “Here, I’ll reach the squeezer down to 
you.” 

JOHN STEINBECK was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, 
California. He was educated in the public schools there, graduating 
from high school in 1918. He entered Stanford University in 1919 
and attended with some irregularity until 1925. He was not happy 
there; unwilling to meet the necessary academic requirements, he never 
took a degree. His principal interests were scientific, particularly 
biologic, and these have exerted a very considerable influence upon 
his literary work. Before Steinbeck was able to support himself by 
writing — that is, before about 1935 — ^he held all sorts of jobs: he was 
a surveyor, a hod carrier, a newspaper reporter, a fruit picker. Though 
at present he lives in New York, he has spent most of his life in 
California. 

His first three published books, a novel called Cup of Gold (1929); 
Pastures of Heaven (1932), a collection of short stories; and To a God 
Unknovon (1933), another novel, were all unsuccessful financially, 
though the second and, to a less extent, the third have literary merit. 
Fame came with the successful Tortilla Flat (1935), a whimsical, 
mock-heroic, light-hearted story about impoverished Mexican-Amer- 
icans in California. In Dubious Battle (1936), a novel about a fruit- 
pickers’ strike in California, and Of Mice and Men (1937), a tragic 
story about the land hunger of two bums, added to his fame. The 
Long Valley, more short stories, was published in 1938. Elmer Davis 
proclaimed Steinbeck “the best prospect in American letters.” This 
high praise seemed warranted when public acclaim greeted The 
Grapes of Wrath (1939), a novel about the tragic migration of a 
poverty-stricken Oklahoma family to California during the Depression. 
But in the 1940’s his work was disappointing. The Moon Is Down 
(1942), a story of German occupation of a conquered country, proved 
unconvincing; and Cannery Row (1945) seemed only a more forceful 
statement of the attitudes which had shaped T ortilla Flat. Pearl of the 
World, which appeared first mThe Womaris Home Companion, De- 
cember, 1945, was published in book form as The Pearl in 1947. It is 
a sentimental * treatment of the evils brought by wealth. The novel 

* Words marked with an asterisk (’*^) will be best understood by the 
student if he consults the section on Definitions, pp. xi -xvi* 

16 



THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 


The Wayward Bus (1947) seemed indicative of developing religions 
ideas in Steinbeck, bnt its theme* was never clarified, and its ideas were 
never brought into adequate focus. A more recent book is the play- 
novelette, Burning Bright (1950). It is intended to be a play and a 
novel at the same time. Printed with the author’s descriptive and ex- 
pository comments, it is a novel; produced on the stage with these 
removed, it is a play. In form this book represents a development of the 
techniques employed in Of Mice and Men and The Moon Is Down; 
both are novelettes easily converted into dramas. The theme of Burn- 
ing Bright is the spiritual unity of humanity. Concerning his latest 
novel, East of Eden (1952), Steinbeck correctly writes, “The subject 
is . . . the balance, the battle, and the victory in the permanent war 
[within mankind] between wisdom and ignorance, light and darkness — 
good and evil.” Though brutally frank in vocabulary and incident, it 
seems almost religious in its interpretation of those aspects of life with 
which it deals. It is by far Steinbeck’s most powerful book since The 
Grapes of Wrath, 

Critics frequently refer to the great diversity of Steinbeck’s subjects, 
but this diversity pertains only to his immediate and obvious subjects. 
The basic attitudes which determine how he treats his material re- 
main virtually the same from To a God Unknown at least to Burning 
Bright, His view of life is in part that of the scientist: he observes care- 
fully and means to treat his observations objectively.* He usually finds 
but one absolute value in life — survival. He attacks, as have nineteenth- 
and twentieth-century scientists, opinions which cannot be substan- 
tiated by observation — ^that is, opinions which he considers prejudices. 
He is concerned with the struggle of the underprivileged for security. 
He deals rather frankly with human physical functions. Thus he is a 
naturalist;* but he has always been something else besides — something 
quite different and even contradictory. He accepts, for no strictly log- 
ical reasons which he is thus far able to give, intuitively derived, near- 
mystical * theories concerning the oneness of things. Individuals form 
groups, and these groups are themselves other individuals, having ap- 
parently a life of their own. These in turn form other groups — and so 
on until the entire universe may be seen as a single august being. Na- 
ture thus conceived, a Nature of which man is an integral part, com- 
mands Steinbeck’s spontaneous reverence and love. It is holy; it 
becomes practically God. His own statement of these partly natural- 
istic, partly intuitive fundamental notions appears in Sea of Cortez 
(1941), which he wrote with E. F. Ricketts.f They may be traced al- 
most everywhere in his novels. It is impossible, however, to say as yet 

tThe portions of this book in which a student of literature is likely to 
be interested have been published separately as The Log from Sea of Cortez 
(1951). 


17 



JOHN STEINBECK 


how profoundly the semi-religious ethical attitudes of East of Eden 
represent a modification or extension of his basic position. 

James T, Farrell has remarked that parts of Steinbeck’s work have 
“all of the mannerisms and none of the content of genuine realistic 
writing,” Farrell exaggerates, particularly in the* second part of this 
comment. But even after making allowances for the exaggeration, one 
finds that this remark turns one’s thoughts about Steinbeck in a proper 
direction. Steinbeck does set out to be a kind of realist,* writing 
about what he sees and hears, but his somewhat mystical intuitions 
influence his interpretation of bis sense impressions, sometimes to the 
point of apparent distortion. 

“The Leader of the People,” one of the stories in The Long Valley, 
is a sequel to, or concerns many of the same characters as, “The Red 
Pony.” 

The following essays are suggested to those who wish to read more 
about Steinbeck: H. T. Moore, The Novels of Joh7% Steinbeck: A 
First Critical Study (1939); Carlos Baker, “ ‘In Dubious Battle’ Reval- 
ued,” New York Times Book Review, July 25, 1943, pp. 4, 16; Joseph 
W., Beach, American Fiction, 1920-1940 (1941), pp. 309-347; Lewis 
Gannett, “John Steinbeck: Novelist at Work,” Atlantic Monthly, clxxvi 
(1945), 55-60; Maxwell Geismar, Writers in Crisis: The American 
Novel between Two Wars (1942), pp. 239-270; Leo Gurko, The 
Angry Decade (1947), pp. 201-221; and Woodburn O. Ross, “John 
Steinbeck: Earth and Stars,” Studies in Honor of A. H, R, Fairchild, 
University of Missouri Studies, vol. xxi, no. 1 (1946), pp. 177-191. 


QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. The title of the story suggests that the author means to focus 
attention principally on Grandfather, though he is not on the scene at 
the beginning of the story. "Exactly what are Billy and Jody doing 
when the story opens? What does Jody propose to do? Can you inter- 
pret these opening episodes as having anything to do with Grandfa- 
ther? Is Jody really a necessary character in the story? Why? 

2. How many of the characters are clearly individualized? Carl? 
Grandfather? Jody? Billy Buck? Perhaps you feel that some appear 
more shadowy than others. Look through the story carefully to see 
what acts of each character give him such individuality as he possesses. 

3. Do you think that most of the characters, regardless of 
whether they are clearly individualized, are to some extent recogniz- 
able types? Your answer to this question may open profitable channels 
for thought. Does it strike you that any important character in a story 
should be both an individual and a type? First, must he be an individ- 
ual? Can you think of characters in other stories which you have read 

18 



THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE 

who were not clearly individualized, who were treated so casually 
that they did not impress themselves upon you as characters at all? 
Were they important in the story? If they were, did the fact that they 
were only shadows injure the story? Second, is a character, no matter 
how well individualized, who is not to some extent a type, of any value 
to you? How can an author interpret aspects of life to you if he por- 
trays characters who do not correspond with any significant kinds of 
people whom you might know? Feel free to answer these questions as 
your experience suggests that you should, regardless of whether you 
think your answers are those which the editors of this text expect. 

4. Are Grandfather’s ideas more speculative than those you 
would expect from an old frontiersman? Does he live in the past too 
exclusively? Does Carl react too vehemently to the story-telling? Js 
Jody more sensitive and understanding than a boy would likely be? 
Does the action of the story leading up to Grandfather’s humiliation 
and response seem artificially contrived? In other words, does Farrell’s 
observation, quoted above, apply here? Can characters in a story be 
individuals and at the same time not be realistically drawn? 

5. Notice that as he tries to adjust himself, after the disillusion- 
ing scene with Carl, Grandfather seems to regret his repetitiveness 
less than the fact that he has never interpreted properly the movement 
of the people in which he had a part. Does this fact seem to you im- 
portant in the development of the story? Or is it extraneous? In what 
terms does Grandfather feel that the “westering” should have been 
understood? Is Steinbeck here putting into Grandfather’s mouth a 
mere figure of speech, or Steinbeck’s own interpretation of the actual 
state of affairs? 


19 



A FRONT-PAGE STORY 


The undertaking parlor seemed oppressively 
formal and impersonal, with its subdued lights, its dull green carpet, 
waxed flooring, scrupulously polished but stiff -backed chairs, weighty 
sofas, and potted green plants set upon marble-topped tables. And 
shadowed toward the rear of this room of artificial sublimity Ruth 
Summer was laid out in a sleeveless pink tafl^eta dress with a shoulder 
corsage. She had been a short dumpy girl with thin, stringy, blonde 
hair, and a commonplace oval face. Now, she was a blue and bloated 
corpse, and her fatty bloodless arms gave one the impression of semi- 
nudity. The dress had evidently been her best party frock, purchased 
after stinting sacrifices, and lovingly doted over. It had been saved and 
preserved for those parties and affairs which she had been only infre- 
quently able to attend, and when she had worn it in life, it must have 
hung like a sack on her squat figure, the inappropriate type of dress 
that just such a monotonous and uninspired girl would wear. In death, 
it draped her like a last treachery. 

Th^r young campus reporter for The Chicago Questioner studied 
this twenty-one-year-old corpse, feeling like an impostor. Near him 
stood a small and repressed group which spoke in semi-articulate whis- 
pers. In its center was Ruth Summer’s father, a tall, homespun man 
with unpressed clothes, lop-sided shoulders, and a genial but rutted 
visage. He had just arrived by train to send his daughter’s body back 
home to Iowa for burial, and he was speaking with Ruth’s tall, homely 

Reprinted by permission from The Short Stories of James T. farrell, 
copyright, 1934, by Vanguard Press, Inc. 

20 



A FRONT-PAGE STORY 


cousin, the woman at whose house Ruth had boarded. The cousin was 
explaining that if Ruth had only taken her into confidence, such fool- 
hardiness might have been prevented. Three of Ruth’s student friends, 
bucolic carbon copies of the dead girl’s own personality, completed 
the group. As they listened to the conversation between the father and 
the cousin, their faces were intent and bewildered. The young campus 
reporter continued staring at the corpse, surreptitiously straining to 
hear and remember every word of the conversation. He recalled the 
statement which the tall, homely cousin had inadvertently made, prior 
to the father’s arrival: 

“It was literal suicide.” 

He approached the group, his presence causing an additional awk- 
wardness among them. Replying to the question of one of the student 
friends, he re-explained that he had been in several classes with Ruth. 
The confused father drew a frayed newspaper clipping from his worn 
wallet and, without comment, handed it around. The young reporter 
read it last, and as he read slowly, he forced himself in the effort of 
remembering as much of it, verbatim, as he could. It recorded that 
Ruth Summer, honor student and valedictory orator at the town high 
school, was leaving to attend the University, and that all her many 
friends, admirers, and classmates predicted for her a brilliant academic 
career at this famous Temple of Truth. After having read the clipping 
twice, he returned it to the father, and shook his head with sad expres- 
siveness. No one spoke. No one looked at anyone else. The youngs re- 
porter, after shuffling his feet nervously and turning his face aside to 
blow his nose, stated that he would be going. The father thanked him 
for having remembered his daughter, and the tall cousin reiterated this 
expression of gratitude. The three student friends stared after him 
with puzzled suspicion. After a final glance at the dead girl, in her 
sleeveless frock, he departed. 

Outside on the Midway he paused to jot down as much as he could 
remember from the clipping the father had shown him. He perceived 
that he was using, for his notes, the blank sides of an official release 
from the Department of Public Relations. He knew what the release 
contained: a eulogistic description of the commencement exercises, 
six and a half mimeographed pages of sugared words reflecting praise 
upon the University. That he should be using this release for his notes 


21 



JAMES T. FARRELL 


was, like the dress, another accidental irony. Even after her death this 
simple, betrayed girl must be humiliated. He stuffed the papers back 
in his pocket, lit a cigarette, and, walking toward the line of Gothic 
University Towers, attempted to think of other subjects. The Midway, 
and the buildings in the distance of several blocks, glowed and were 
mellow under a spreading June twilight, and the sky was calm. All 
about him were the heedless echoes of living people, children playing 
on the shaven grass in the center of the Midway, strolling pedestrians, 
a succession of whizzing automobiles, a jazz song audible from a radio 
within an opened window, an Illinois Central Suburban electric train, 
drawing into and out of the Midway station, an airplane rumbling 
overhead, causing people to pause and gape skyward with dreamy ob- 
livious eyes and open mouths. 

He crossed over to the north side of the Midway and passed the 
white-stoned million-dollar Gothic chapel in which, on the previous 
day, the graduation exercises had been conducted, and he briefly 
glanced upward at the high and serene white-stoned tower. He en- 
tered a long, low and ornate hall dedicated to the recreation and social 
life of the female students. It was here that Ruth Summer had worked 
for two years as a checkroom girl. And it was from a garrulous elderly 
woman in this building that he had indirectly received the tip on the 
story. He nodded and smiled at the blue-uniformed guard who stood 
inside the door at the edge of the broad lobby, a rubicund jolly-faced 
man decrepit with age. Casually, he sauntered to the bulletin board, 
and paused as if he were interested in the few tacked-on announce- 
ments and notices. Copies of the University annual lay on a table 
which stood near the checkroom on his left, half-concealed by a post. 
Since he had to procure one immediately and he did not have the ten 
dollars to purchase it, a copy would have to be stolen. Once before he 
had had to steal one in the same manner. He glanced about the lobby, 
as if he were seeking some girl. He walked to the table, quickly 
snatched a copy, and proceeded around behind the checkroom where 
there were telephone booths and a cloister. In one of the telephone 
booths he concealed the annual under his jacket, holding it in place 
with a stiffened left arm. Coming out of the telephone booth, he sat 
at the edge of the lobby for several moments, arose, and drifted to- 
ward the door, while the guard was answering questions. 

22 



A FRONT-PAGE STORY 


A few paces down from the building he removed the annual and 
placed it under his left arm. He knew that it contained a photograph 
of Ruth Summer, but he had no curiosity to look at the picture. 

He walked with a slackened pace. This one was a front-page scoop, 
and he experienced none of that quickening sense of keenness, that 
thrilling feeling of a dog on the hunt, which he should have. He har- 
bored no illusions that he was more than a part-time campus reporter, 
whose principal duty was that of supplying The Chicago Questioner 
with a steady succession of leg pictures of prominent and attractive 
campus girls. And he had no ambitions of becoming a newspaper man, 
particularly one employed by The Chicago Questioner and working 
under Kelly Malloy, the triple-chinned editor. Withal, his work had 
permitted him to return to classes this last quarter. He desired to re- 
tain it, and to do so, he could not permit such stories to pass. If he did, 
they would be picked up by someone else, and then he would have to 
explain to Kelly Malloy why he was missing them. 

As it was, Kelly was continuing his job largely on sufferance. Bobby 
Wallace, the ex-baseball writer who was now the University’s Director 
of Public Relations, was tight on news, and barely deigned to recog- 
nize the existence of the campus reporter. Rather, he sent news in offi- 
cial releases, and whenever he needed a reporter or photographer, he 
telephoned the City Desk. He had countered Bobby’s tactics by turn- 
ing in as many ridiculous stories about the University as he could, and 
most of them had been printed. But it still seemed to puzzle Kelly 
Malloy that Bobby should always be telephoning for reporters and 
photographers. This story would settle all grudges with The Depart- 
ment of Public Relations. It was a sole measure of compensation for 
not having ignored the story, in the hope that no one else would have 
dug it up. 

He sat on the steps of the main library building, smoking, shrinking 
from the moment when he would go inside to the phone booth and 
call up the City Desk. In quick, epitomizing mental pictures, he had a 
sense of Ruth Summer’s whole University career. He could visual- 
ize this unostentatious, unsung, practically unknown small town girl 
against various familiar campus backgrounds. He could see her during 
that now forgotten freshman week of four years ago, when she had 
matriculated. He could sense that lost and lonely feeling that must 


23 



JAMES T. FARRELL 


have been hers as she stood in slow-moving lines, waiting to interview 
her dean, waiting to register for courses, waiting to apply for work at 
The Bureau of Vocational Guidance, waiting to pay her fees. He 
could see her sitting in chapel during that important first week, when 
deans and administrators officially welcomed the class of 1929, with 
lip-service to truth, with cliches describing benefits and privileges 
which the University so altruistically placed at the disposal of its stu- 
dents, with stale stereotypes expressing the formal ideals of the institu- 
tion. And he could see her attentively listening and literal-mindedly 
accepting their words, determining that she would make the most of 
her opportunity. Likewise could he see her in classrooms with a loose- 
leaf notebook before her, diligently copying notes from lectures. And 
again in the library studying. She had majored in Education, and had 
planned to become a teacher, and he could see her poring over her as- 
signments in one of her text-books, perhaps a text-book with some 
such title as The Theory and Method of the Theory and Practice of 
Teaching High-School English, He wondered how many hours she 
had stolen from sleep, from fun, from dreams, from her life, to devote 
to her courses in Education. How much of her short life had she given 
to such problems as the scientific method of grading high-school Eng- 
lish papers, to drawing up reading lists for English courses in junior 
high schools, to the laborious listing of the titles of innocuous books 
which she herself had no time to read, to considerations of the quan- 
tity of fresh air to be permitted twenty-five students, to theoretical 
discussions of the value and efficacy of using the True and False 
method in conducting examinations? And again, he could see her on 
some rare evening of relaxation, when she would have been able to 
attend an International Club Dance — affairs generally considered freak 
shows by the prominent campus men and women — ^when she would 
have stood like a wall-flower, perhaps in her sleeveless pink taffeta 
dress, waiting for someone to ask her to dance, watching dance after 
dance without any invitation, or, if she were dancing, moving so 
woodenly and awkwardly that she became a trial to her partner. He 
could see her, again, emerging from the office of her doctor at the be- 
ginning of her junior year, pondering and brooding on the words she 
had just heard, knowing that she had such a very weak heart that she 


24 



A FRONT-PAGE STORY 


could not hope for a long life, and that any undue excitement or vio- 
lent exercise would induce her death. He was forced, from this reflec- 
tion, to admire her persistence and courage in continuing with full- 
time schedules and going on with her work as checkroom girl 
and waitress, despite the doctor’s warning. He could see her, con- 
stantly tired, moving from classroom to library, to hasty meals, to 
work, and then home to her room for study until she dropped off into 
a sleep of physical exhaustion. He could see her, a plainly dressed girl, 
proceeding along a campus walk, moving by the lilac trees on a sunny 
spring day, just another grind driving herself toward her goal of an 
education and a degree, smothering impulse after impulse to dally and 
-deviate from her purposes. He attempted to imagine how she must 
have felt on such occasions, when she would have passed some athlete 
or club girl who had sat near her in a class, and who passed her by out- 
side without even a formal nod of recognition. He thought of this 
dead girl, and of her career, that had been so completely fruitless. AU 
her work and study, the more than a thousand dollars which she had 
paid for tuition, the strain of her effort to obtain an education — all 
fruitless. 

And yesterday, a cold and rainy day, she had gone out to the sand 
dunes with a newly found friend who had been ignorant of the condi- 
tion of her heart. While the successful members of her class were in 
the million-dollar chapel, listening to oratory on the subject of truth, 
EDUCATION, and CITIZENSHIP, and receiving their degrees, she was out 
on the sand dunes, her unattractive body clothed in a swimming suit. 
She had known what the consequences of her gesture would be. 

“It was literal suicide.” 

She had known that if she ran about the dunes, and that if she risked 
plunging into the icy waters of Lake Michigan, she would not return 
alive. It had been with a final desperation, nursing a final disappoint- 
ment, that she had gone on this expedition. Her friend had been first 
in the water. Ruth had run among the dunes, shouting. She had stood 
with folded arms, waving to her friend while the latter swam outward. 
Shouting and laughing, she had pitched down to the shore line. She 
had collapsed in shallow water, and a wave had washed over her and 
dragged her to the shore where she had lain, buffeted by the steady 


25 



JAMES T. FARRELL 


charge of waves until her friend, coming in unaware, had discovered 
her. She had been dead for over an hour when a doctor had examined 
the body, diagnosing heart failure as the cause of death. 

The young campus reporter tossed aside a half-smoked cigarette 
butt, and stood up. Twilight had settled and it was almost completely 
dark. The Midway was wrapped in an atmosphere of loneliness, with 
its passing automobiles, its blinking traJSic signals, and its sauntering 
pedestrians. He turned toward the door of the building. He had for- 
gotten that it was closed, so he walked over to an open hall at 
the other end of the campus, to telephone. 

The City Desk gave him a rewrite man. He stated the facts simply, 
one by one. She had come to the University with the reputation of 
being a brilliant student at her small town high school. She had 
worked her way through school as a waitress and checkroom girl. 
This June, she had expected to graduate. She had been too busy to 
have many friends, or much fun during her four years. A few days 
before graduation she had received a formal notice informing her that 
she would not be permitted to graduate because she lacked one grade 
point, and that her average, therefore, did not qualify her for a 
degree. She had told none of her friends of this development, and had 
proceeded with her graduation plans. She had paid for her cap and 
gown, and had sat with the graduating class for the official picture. 
She had attended the annual senior class breakfast, held one day before 
commencement exercises. Then on the day of graduation, she had 
gone out to the sand dunes in the rain, and had attempted to run and 
swim. For two years, she had been the victim of severe heart attacks, 
and was under the care of a doctor. She knew that her action would 
result in death. Now her father was in town, and in the morning she 
was being returned home in a co£En without the degree for which she 
had struggled. 

The rewrite man asked how the facts had been gotten. 

“By lying,” the campus reporter answered. 

“Come on, Fm busy. How did you get them?” 

“I posed as a friend, and spoke with her cousin, her father, and some 
of her friends. And I saw her laid out in the undertaking parlor.” 

“Anything else?” 


26 



A FRONT-PAGE STORY 


“Yes, she lived with her cousin, and the cousin stated that It was 
literal suicide.’ ” 

“Sounds like it was. How about her picture?” 

“It’s in the latest annual. I got a copy, and I’m sending it down in a 
cab.” 

“Swell stuff, kid! That’s good work. I’ll have to remind Kelly about 
it tomorrow.” 

“And listen! Give her a break. It’ll be the first one she ever had. Try 
and keep out too much of the sob stuff. If you make it too gooey, the 
story will be spoiled.” 

“Yeh, it’s pretty sad. All right, and are you sure you got it all in 
now? Nothing else?” 

“You got it.” 

“Well, listen while I repeat it for you.” 

After hanging up, the campus reporter telephoned for a taxi cab. 
Waiting for the cab he looked across the street at the gymnasium, 
which stood darkened and clothed in shadows. He gave the driver the 
annual, instructed him to get it down to the city desk of The Chicago 
Questioner as quickly as possible, and that he would be paid down 
there. He watched the cab shoot off. In the morning, his story and 
Ruth’s picture would be on the front page, and the girl’s body would 
be on the train, moving toward home. And the father, with the un- 
pressed suit, the lop-sided shoulders, and the genial but rutted face, 
would be sitting by the train window, looking ^t, a bewildered man. 

He walked eastward, reflecting on the final meanings of this girl’s 
life. Bobby Wallace would read the story, and become furious. 
He would receive a telephone call from the office of the vice-presi- 
dent, and he would be called on the carpet to explain why such un- 
favorable news had gotten into the papers, and particularly at this 
time, following the commencement exercises, and all the favorable 
national publicity which the University had received following its re- 
cent surprising appointment of the new “boy president” from Yale. 
Bobby would have to say that he knew nothing about it. He would 
have to confess defeat. Then the dean of women would get him and' 
demand an explanation. And even the chairman of the board of trus- 
tees, Morton G. Quick, the stockyards capitalist and power behind the 



JAMES T. FARRELL 


University throne, would telephone Bobby and ask about the story. 
Bobby would telephone Kelly and brand the story as a lie, and the 
campus reporter as a liar. Kelly would chuckle to himself, his three 
chins moving, and answer ambiguously. Ruth Summer, who in life had 
merely been one undistinguished student out of about five thousand, 
a name on reports, a source of one hundred dollars tuition fees every 
quarter, a student employee with a name on payrolls, a student who 
must have a desk in various classrooms, and, finally, a member of the 
class of 1929 who had had to be formally notified that she lacked the 
prerequisites for graduation — ^in death, she would be an embarrassment 
to all the institution’s officialdom. To the campus reporter, she was a 
scoop, a means of preserving his job, and the instrument of settling his 
grievances with The Department of Public Relations. To Chicago 
Questioner^ she was a front-page story, exciting the staff for the space 
of a few moments while the story was written and turned in. To the 
editors of the other papers, she would be a source of annoyance, some- 
thing they had missed, and her story in The Questioner would be 
turned over to their rewrite men to be hashed up for their own edi- 
tions. To a nameless taxi-driver, she was a long and easy haul from the 
University all the way downtown, with no passenger to watch 
whether or not he took a long route to jack up his fare. 

And while she had become or was becoming all these various mean- 
ings, she lay in that oppressive undertaking parlor, blue and bloated 
in a sleeveless pink taffeta party frock, and all the fruitless dignity and 
courage of her life was betrayed, even after her death. 


JAMES T. FARRELL was born on February 27, 1904, in Chicago, 
the city most frequently used as a setting for his short stories and nov- 
els. As a boy he was more interested in sports — baseball, foot- 
ball, and basketball — ^than in literature. He was educated at St. Anselm 
Grammar School, St. Cyril High School, De Paul University, and 
the University of Chicago. At one time or another he was a clerk for 
an express company and a cigar store, a filling station attendant, a re- 
porter, and an advertising salesman. All these experiences, combined 
with his living in France and elsewhere abroad, have been the raw ma- 
terials for many of his short stories. Farrell, however, cautions his 
readers against accepting these stories as autobiographical sketches. 

At the University of Chicago he was encouraged in his creative 
writing. Professor Robert Morss Lovett, after reading Farrell’s short 

28 



A FRONT-PAGE STORY 


story about a boy named Studs Lonigan, suggested that the material 
might better be treated in a novel From this suggestion grew the tril- 
ogy Studs Lonigan {Young Lonigan^ a Boyhood in Chicago Streets^ 
1932; The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, 1934; Judgment Day, 
1935), which remains his best and most representative work. He ac- 
knowledges Lovett and Professor James Weber Linn, for whose course 
at the University of Chicago the story “Studs” was written, as the spir- 
itual godfathers of the trilogy. From it the pattern for most of his 
later work was derived. His later novels, though written with the 
strong sociological emphasis, the frankness, honesty, and vigor which 
mark Studs Lonigan, fail to achieve the force and unity of that work; 
those dealing with Danny O’Neill are its closest rivals. 

Farrell’s several volumes of short stories may be considered by- 
products of his novels: they deal with the problems of growing up, 
adjusting or not adjusting to society, family conflict, the life of the 
writer or artist. The following volumes contain stories that fully rep- 
resent his range of subject matter and manner of treatment: Calico 
Shoes and Other Stories (1934); Guillotine Party and Other Stories 
(1935); Can All This Grandeur Perish? and Other Stories (1937); The 
Life Adventurous and Other Stories (1947). 

Both Farrell’s novels and short stories are so loosely organized that 
they may seem to be haphazard productions. They are not. The loose 
construction is part of his method, for he carefully revises his works 
two or three times before they reach their final form. Like Dreiser, 
whom he admires, Farrell makes up in force for what he lacks in 
finesse. His view of life is also close to that of Dreiser: he is a relativist 
in ethics; he condemns society for not taking into account the plight 
of the underprivileged and for not giving them a chance in life. As he 
has written, “If there is any hatred in my books, ... it is not directed 
against people but against conditions which brutalize human beings 
and produce spiritual and material poverty.” Most of the stories he 
wrote when he was a student at the University of Chicago, he says, 
related to “death, disintegration, human indignity, poverty, drunken- 
ness, ignorance, human cruelty.” 

The comment applies to most of his writing. Farrell has continued 
to be interested in the life of the average man (rather than the genius 
or the unusual person), in the cares and problems of the underprivi- 
leged and dispossessed, and in American society as a whole. He points 
out the cost, in human terms, of maintaining this society; the need for 
change or reform is strongly implied. To some readers and critics, 
much of his work is of interest largely as journalism and sociological 
case history. His writing seems plain and sober and bare. Some of his 
short stories appear to be fragmentary “slices of life” that have little 
connection with fiction as an “art form.” The reader should remember 

29 



JAMES T. FARRELL 


Farrell’s statement: “I believe that literature must be viewed both as a 
branch of the fine arts and as an instrument of social influence.” 

In using literature for social reform, he continues the tradition asso- 
ciated with H. G. Wells and Upton Sinclair. Although his philosophic 
attitude is naturalistic,* he does not always maintain a scientific de- 
tachment. In a “Letter to a Young Writer” (1940) he recommends 
Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, and James Joyce — all objective 
writers — as models; he particularly admires the objectivity* of Joyce’s 
Dubliners, Farrell has the honesty and integrity of these writers, but 
he lacks their artistry. A comparison of Farrell’s story with the work 
of Joyce and of Katherine Mansfield (who also admired Chekhov) 
in this volume will reveal the difference. 

“A Front-page Story” appeared in Calico Shoes and Other Stories, 
a volume which was included in The Short Stories of James T. Farrell 
(1937). 

Farrell’s own critical and social commentaries throw light upon his 
work: A Note on Literary Criticism (1936); The League of Fright- 
ened Philistines (1945); and Literature and Morality (1947). Critical 
comment and analysis may be found in J. W. Beach, American Fiction, 
1920-1940 (1941), pp. 273-305; Robert Morss Lovett, Introduction to 
The Short Stories of James T. Farrell (1937); John McCole, Lucifer 
at Large (1937), pp. 277-290; Lloyd R. Morris, Postscript to Yesterday 
(1947), pp. 162-166; and Isaac Rosenfeld, “Work in Regress,” New 
Republic, cxiv (May 27, 1946), 774, 776-777. 


QUESTIONS TOR THE STUDENT 

1. Is the theme* of this story concerned with society in general? 
with education in particular? with individual character? State the 
theme. How does the author develop it — by direct statement, by im- 
plication, by description, or by a combination of these and other meth- 
ods? 

2. In the last sentence of the opening paragraph, Farrell writes: 
“In death, it [Ruth’s dress] draped her like a last treachery.” Why 
bring in a sentence like this early in the story, before the reader can 
know the implication? What other treacheries does the author refer 
to? 

3. In a later passage the author writes: “That he [the reporter] 
should be using this [publicity] release for his notes was, like the dress,, 
another accidental irony.” What is irony? Explain the author’s mean- 
ing and implication here. What other ironies do you find in the story? 
What reasons can you think of for the use of irony in literature? 

4. When you have finished the story, what is your attitude to- 
ward Ruth? her father? the reporter? the University? What appears 

30 



A FRONT-PAGE STORY 


to be the author’s' attitude toward each of them? How can you tell? 

5. Mention such influences of naturalism as you think you dis- 
cern in the action of the story. Do you think that the characterization 
of Ruth was influenced by this philosophic attitude? Does she emerge 
in the story as a type or a person? Is Farrell guilty of sentimentality'*^ 
in his representation of her plight? If so, do you object? 

6. Notice that Farrell explains and annotates his material as he 
goes along. For example, “Even after her death this simple, betrayed 
girl must be humiliated.” Does this quotation suggest the author’s 
objectivity? Point out at least two similar passages. Does Steinbeck 
explain and annotate in this fashion? 


31 



RED 


The Skipper thrust his hand into one of his trouser 
pockets and with difficulty, for they were not at the sides but in front 
and he was a portly man, pulled out a large silver watch. He looked at 
it and then looked again at the declining sun. The Kanaka at the wheel 
gave him a glance, but did not speak. The skipper’s eyes rested on the 
island they were approaching. A white line of foam marked the reef. 
He knew there was an opening large enough to get his ship through, 
and when they came a little nearer he counted on seeing it. They had 
nearly an hour of daylight still before them. In the lagoon the water 
was deep and they could anchor comfortably. The chief of the village 
which he could already see among the coconut trees was a friend of 
the mate’s, and it would be pleasant to go ashore for the night. The 
mate came forward at that minute and the skipper turned to him. 

“We’ll take a bottle of booze along with us and get some girls in to 
dance,” he said. 

“I don’t see the opening,” said the mate. 

He was a Kanaka, a handsome, sw^arthy fellow, with somewhat the 
look of a later Roman emperor, inclined to stoumess; but his face was 
fine and clean-cut. 

“I’m dead sure there’s one right here,” said the captain, looking 
through his glasses. “I can’t understand why I can’t pick it up. Send 
one of the boys up the mast to have a look.” 

From The Trembling of a Leaf by W. Somerset Maugham. Copyright, 
1921, by Doubieday k Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Doubleday 
k Company, Inc., New York, and for Canadian circulation by permission of 
Mr. Maugham and William Heinemann, Ltd., London, through A. P. Watt 
k Son, Ltd., London. 

32 


RED 


The mate called one of the crew and gave him the order. The cap- 
tain watched the Kanaka climb and waited for him to speak. But the 
Kanaka shouted down that he could see nothing but the unbroken line 
of foam. The captain spoke Samoan like a native, and he cursed him 
freely. 

‘‘Shall he stay up there?” asked the mate. 

“What the hell good does that do?” answered the captain. “The 
blame fool can’t see worth a cent. You bet your sweet life Fd find the 
opening if I was up there.” 

He looked at the slender mast with anger. It was all very well for a 
native who had been used to climbing up coconut trees all his life. He 
was fat and heavy. 

“Come down,” he shouted. “You’re no more use than a dead dog. 
We’ll just have to go along the reef till we find the opening.” 

It was a seventy-ton schooner with paraffin auxiliary, and it ran, 
when there was no head wind, between four and five knots an hour. 
It was a bedraggled object; it had been painted white a very long time 
ago, but it was now dirty, dingy, and mottled. It smelt strongly of 
paraffin and of the copra which was its usual cargo. They were within 
a hundred feet of the reef now and the captain told the steersman to 
run along it till they came to the opening. But when they had gone a 
couple of miles he realised that they had missed it. He went about and 
slowly worked back again. The white foam of the reef continued 
without interruption and now the sun was setting. With a curse at the 
stupidity of the crew the skipper resigned himself to waiting till next 
morning. 

“Put her about,” he said. “I can’t anchor here.” 

' They went out to sea a little and presently it was quite dark. They 
anchored. When the sail was furled the ship began to roll a good deal. 
They said in Apia that one day she would roll right over; and the 
owner, a German-American who managed one of the largest stores, 
said that no money was big enough to induce him to go out in her. 
The cook, a Chinese in white trousers, very dirty and ragged, and a 
thin white tunic, came to say that supijer was ready, and when the 
skipper went into the cabin he found the engineer already seated at 
table. The engineer was a long, lean man with a scraggy neck. He was 


33 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


dressed in blue overalls and a sleeveless jersey which showed his thin 
arms tattooed from elbow to wrist. 

“Hell, having to spend the night outside,” said the skipper. 

The engineer did not answer, and they ate their supper in silence. 
The cabin was lit by a dim oil lamp. When they had eaten the canned 
apricots with which the meal finished the Chink brought them a cup 
of tea. The skipper lit a cigar and went on the upper deck. The island 
now was only a darker mass against the night. The stars were very 
bright. The only sound was the ceaseless breaking of the surf. The 
skipper sank into a deck-chair and smoked idly. Presently three or 
four members of the crew came up and sat down. One of them had a 
banjo and another a concertina. They began to play, and one of them 
sang. The native song sounded strange on these instruments. Then to 
the singing a couple began to dance. It was a barbaric dance, savage 
and primeval, rapid, with quick movements of the hands and feet and 
contortions of the body; it was sensual, sexual even, but sexual with- 
out passion. It was very animal, direct, weird without mystery, natural 
in short, and one might almost say childlike. At last they grew tired. 
They stretched themselves on the deck and slept, and all was silent. 
The skipper lifted himself heavily out of his chair and clambered 
down the companion. He went into his cabin and got out of his 
clothes. He climbed into his bunk and lay there. He panted a Httle in 
the heat of the night. 

But next morning, when the dawn crept over the tranquil sea, the 
opening in the reef which had eluded them the night before was seen 
a little to the east of where they lay. The schooner entered the lagoon. 
There was not a ripple on the surface of the water. Deep down among 
the coral rocks you saw little coloured fish swim. When he had an- 
chored his ship the skipper ate his breakfast and went on deck. The 
sun shone from an unclouded sky, but in the early morning the air was 
grateful and cool. It was Sunday, and there was a feeling of quietness, 
a silence as though nature were at rest, which gave him a peculiar 
sense of comfort. He sat, looking at the wooded coast, and felt lazy 
and well at ease. Presently a slow smile moved his lips and he threw 
the stump of his cigar into the water. 

“I guess 111 go ashore,” he said. “Get the boat out” 

He climbed stiffly down the ladder and was rowed to a little cove. 

34 



RED 


The coconut trees came down to the water’s edge, not in rows, but 
spaced out with an ordered formality. They were like a ballet of spin- 
sters, elderly but flippant, standing in affected attitudes with the sim- 
pering graces of a bygone age. He sauntered idly through them, along 
a path that could be just seen winding its tortuous way, and it led him 
presently to a broad creek. There was a bridge across it, but a bridge 
constructed of single trunks of coconut trees, a dozen of them, placed 
end to end and supported where they met by a forked branch driven 
into the bed of the creek. You walked on a smooth, round surface, 
narrow and slippery, and there was no support for the hand. To cross 
such a bridge required sure feet and a stout heart. The skipper hesi- 
tated. But he saw on the other side, nestling among the trees, a white 
man’s house; he made up his mind and, rather gingerly, began to walk. 
He watched his feet carefully, and where one trunk joined on to the 
next and there was a difference of level, he tottered a little. It was 
with a gasp of relief that he reached the last tree and finally set his 
feet on the firm ground of the other side. He had been so intent on 
the difficult crossing that he never noticed anyone was watching him, 
and it was with surprise that he heard himself spoken to. 

“It takes a bit of nerve to cross these bridges when you’re not used 
to them.” 

He looked up and saw a man standing in front of him. He had evi- 
dently come out of the house which he had seen. 

“I saw you hesitate,” the man continued, with a smile on his lips, 
“and I was watching to see you fall in.” 

“Not on your life,” said the captain, who had now recovered his 
confidence. 

“I’ve fallen in myself before now. I remember, one evening I came 
back from shooting, and I fell in, gun and all. Now I get a boy to carry 
my gun for me.” 

He was a man no longer young, with a small beard, now somewhat 
grey, and a thin face. He was dressed in a singlet, without arms, and 
a pair of duck trousers. He wore neither shoes nor socks. He spoke 
English with a slight accent. 

“A.re you Neilson?” asked the skipper. 

“I am.” 

“I’ve heard about you. I thought you lived somewheres round here.” 

35 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


The skipper followed his host into the little bungalow and sat down 
heavily in the chair which the other motioned him to take. While 
Neilson went out to fetch whisky and glasses he took a look round the 
room. It filled him with amazement. He had never seen so many 
books. The shelves reached from floor to ceiling on all four walls, and 
they were closely packed. There was a grand piano littered with 
music, and a large table on which books and magazines lay in disorder* 
The room made him feel embarrassed. He remembered that Neilson 
was a queer fellow. No one knew very much about him, although he 
had been in the islands for so many years, but those who knew him 
agreed that he was queer. He was*a Swede. 

“You’ve got one big heap of books here,” he said, when Neilson re- 
turned. 

“They do no harm,” answered Neilson with a smile. 

“Have you read them all?” asked the skipper. 

“Most of them.” 

“I’m a bit of a reader myself. I have the Saturday Evening Tost sent 
me regler.” 

Neilson poured his visitor a good stiff glass of whisky and gave him 
a cigar. The skipper volunteered a little information. 

“I got in last night, but I couldn’t find the opening, so I had to an- 
chor outside. I never been this run before, but my people had some 
stuff they wanted to bring over here. Gray, d’you know him?” 

“Yes, he’s got a store a little way along.” 

“Well, there was a lot of canned stuff that he wanted over, an’ he’s 
got some copra. They thought I might just as well come over as lie 
idle at Apia. I run between Apia and Pago-Pago mostly, but they’ve 
got smallpox there just now, and there’s nothing stirring.” 

He took a drink of his whisky and lit a cigar. He was a taciturn 
man, but there was something in Neilson that made him nervous, and 
his nervousness made him talk. The Swede was looking at him with 
large dark eyes in which there was an expression of faint amusement. 

“This is a tidy littie place you’ve got here.” 

“I’ve done my best with it.” 

“You must do pretty well with your trees. They look fine. With 
copra at the price it is now. I had a bit of a plantation myself once, 
in Upolu it was, but I had to sell it.” 

M 



RED 


He looked round the room again, where all those books gave him a 
feeling of something incomprehensible and hostile, 

“I guess you must find it a bit lonesome here though,” he said. 

“Fve got used to it IVe been here for twenty-five years.” 

Now the captain could think of nothing more to say, and he smoked 
in silence. Neilson had apparently no wish to break it He looked at 
his guest with a meditative eye. He was a tall man, more than six 
feet high, and very stout. His face was red and blotchy, with a net- 
work of little purple veins on the cheeks, and his features were sunk 
into its fatness. His eyes were bloodshot His neck was buried in rolls 
of fat. But for a fringe of long curly hair, nearly white, at the back of 
his head, he was quite bald; and that immense, shiny surface of fore- 
head, which might have given him a false look of intelligence, on the 
contrary gave him one of peculiar imbecility. He wore a blue flannel 
shirt, open at the neck and showing his fat chest covered with a mat 
of reddish hair, and a very old pair of blue serge trousers. He sat in 
his chair in a heavy ungainly attitude, his great belly thrust forward 
and his fat legs uncrossed. All elasticity had gone from his limbs. Neil- 
son wondered idly what sort of man he had been in his youth. It was 
almost impossible to imagine that this creature of vast bulk had ever 
been a boy who ran about. The skipper finished his whisky, and Neil- 
son pushed the bottle towards him, 

“Help yourself.” 

The skipper leaned forward and with his great hand seized it. 

“And how come you in these parts anyways?” he said. 

“Oh, I came out to the islands for my health. My lungs were bad 
and they said I hadn’t a year to live. You see they were wrong.” 

“I meant, how come you to settle down right here?” 

“I am a sentimentalist,” 

“OhI” 

Neilson knew that the skipper had not an idea what he meant, and 
he looked at him with an ironical twinkle in his dark eyes. Perhaps 
just because the skipper was so gross and dull a man the whim seized 
him to talk further. 

“You were too busy keeping your balance to notice, when you 
crossed the bridge, but this spot is generally considered rather pretty,” 

“It’s a cute little house you’ve got here,” 


37 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


“Ah, that wasn’t here when I first came. There was a native hut, 
with its beehive roof and its pillars, overshadowed by a great tree 
with red flowers; and the croton bushes, their leaves yellow and red 
and golden, made a pied fence around it. And then all about were the 
coconut trees, as fanciful as women, and as vain. They stood at the 
water’s edge and spent all day looking at their reflections. I was a 
young man then — Good Heavens, it’s a quarter of a century ago — and 
I wanted to enjoy all the loveliness of the world in the short time 
allotted to me before I passed into the darkness. I thought it was the 
most beautiful spot I had ever seen. The first time I saw it I had a 
catch at my heart, and I was afraid I was going to cry. I wasn’t more 
than twenty-five, and though I put the best face I could on it, I didn’t 
want to die. And somehow it seemed to me that the very beauty of 
this place made it easier for me to accept my fate. I felt when I came 
here that all my past life had fallen away, Stockholm and its Univer- 
sity, and then Bonn: it all seemed the life of somebody else, as though 
now at last I had achieved the reality which our doctors of philosophy 
— am one myself, you know — ^had discussed so much. ‘A year,’ I 
cried to myself. ‘I have a year. I will spend it here and then I am con- 
tent to die.’ 

“We are foolish and sentimental and melodramatic at twenty-five, 
but if we weren’t perhaps we should be less wise at fifty. 

“Now drink, my friend. Don’t let the nonsense I talk interfere with 
you.” 

He waved his thin hand towards the bottle, and the skipper finished 
what remained in his glass. 

“You ain’t drinking nothin’,” he said, reaching for the whisky. 

“I am of a sober habit,” smiled the Swede. “I intoxicate myself in 
ways which I fancy are more subtle. But perhaps that is only vanity. 
Anyhow, the effects are more lasting and the results less deleterious.” 

“They say there’s a deal of cocaine taken in the States now,” said 
the captain. 

Neilson chuckled, 

“But I do not see a white man often,” he continued, “and for once 
I don’t think a drop of whisky can do me any harm.” 

He poured himself out a little, added some soda, and took a sip. 

“And presently I found out why the spot had such an unearthly 

m 



RED 


loveliness. Here love had tarried for a moment like a migrant bird that 
happens on a ship in mid-ocean and for a little while folds its tired 
wings. The fragrance of a beautiful passion hovered over it like the 
fragrance of hawthorn in May in the meadows of my home. It seems 
to me that the places where men have loved or suffered keep about 
them always some faint aroma of something that has not wholly died. 
It is as though they had acquired a spiritual significance which mys- 
teriously affects those who pass. I wish I could make myself clear.” 
He smiled a little. “Though I cannot imagine that if I did you would 
understand.” 

He paused. 

“I think this place was beautiful because here had been loved beau- 
tifully.” And now he shrugged his shoulders. “But perhaps it is only 
that my esthetic sense is gratified by the happy conjunction of young 
love and a suitable setting.” 

Even a man less thick-witted than the skipper might have been for- 
given if he were bewildered by Neilson’s words. For he seemed faintly 
to laugh at what he said. It was as though he spoke from emotion 
which his intellect found ridiculous. He had said himself that he was 
a sentimentalist, and when sentimentality is joined with scepticism 
there is often the devil to pay. 

He was silent for an instant and looked at the captain with eyes in 
which there was a sudden perplexity. 

“You know, I can’t help thinking that Fve seen you before some- 
where or other,” he said. 

“I couldn’t say as I remember you,” returned the skipper. 

“I have a curious feeling as though your face were familiar to me. 
It’s been puzzling me for some time. But I can’t situate my recollection 
in any place or at any time.” 

The skipper massively shrugged his heavy shoulders. 

“It’s thirty years since I first come to the islands. A man can’t figure 
on remembering all the folk he meets in a while like that.” 

The Swede shook his head. 

“You know how one sometimes has the feeling that a place one has 
never been to before is strangely familiar. That’s how I seem to see 
you.” He gave a whimsical smile. “Perhaps I knew you in some past 
existence. Perhaps, perhaps you were the master of a galley in ancient 

39 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


Rome and I was a siave at the oar. Thirty years have you been here?” 

“Every bit of thirty years.” 

“I wonder if you knew a man called Red?” 

“Red?” 

“That is the only name Fve ever known him by. I never knew him 
personally. I never even set eyes on him. And yet I seem to see him 
more clearly than many men, my brothers, for instance, with whom I 
passed my daily life for many years. He lives in my imagination with 
the distinctness of a Paolo Malatesta or a Romeo. But I daresay you 
have never read Dante or Shakespeare?” 

“I can’t say as I have,” said the captain. 

Neilson, smoking a cigar, leaned back in his chair and looked va- 
cantly at the ring of smoke which floated in the still air. A smile 
played on his lips, but his eyes were grave. Then he looked at the cap- 
tain. There was in his gross obesity something extraordinarily repel- 
lent. He had the plethoric self-satisfaction of the very fat. It was an 
outrage. It set Neilson’s nerves on edge. But the contrast between the 
man before him and the man he had in mind was pleasant. 

“It appears that Red was the most comely thing you ever saw. I’ve 
talked to quite a number of people who knew him in those days, white 
men, and they all agree that the first time you saw him his beauty just 
took your breath away. They called him Red on account of his flam- 
ing hair. It had a natural wave and he wore it long. It must have been 
of that wonderful colour that the pre-Raphaelites raved over. I don’t 
think he was vain of it, he was much too ingenuous for that, but no 
one could have blamed him if he had been. He was tall, six feet and an 
inch or two — ^in the native house that used to stand here was the mark 
of his height cut with a knife on the central trunk that supported the 
roof — and he was made like a Greek god, broad in the shoulders and 
thin in the flanks; he was like Apollo, with just that soft roundness 
which Praxiteles gave him, and that suave, feminine grace which has 
in it something troubling and mysterious. His skin was dazzling white, 
milky, like satin; his skin was like a woman’s.” 

“I had kind of a white skin myself when I was a kiddie,” said the 
skipper, with a twinkle in his bloodshot eyes. 

But Neilson paid no attention to him. He was telling his story now 
and interruption made him impatient. 


40 



RED 


“And his face was just as beautiful as his body. He had large blue 
eyes, very dark, so that some say they were black, and unlike most 
red-haired people he had dark eyebrows and long dark lashes. His fea- 
tures were perfectly regular and his mouth was like a scarlet wound. 
He was twenty.” 

On these words the Swede stopped with a certain sense of the dra- 
matic. He took a sip of whisky. 

“He was unique. There never was anyone more beautiful. There 
was no more reason for him than for a wonderful blossom to flower 
on a wild plant. He was a happy accident of nature. 

“One day he landed at that cove into which you must have put this 
morning. He was«an American sailor, and he had deserted from a man- 
of-war in Apia. He had induced some good-humoured native to give 
him a passage on a cutter that happened to be sailing from Apia to 
Safoto, and he had been put ashore here in a dugout. I do not know 
why he deserted. Perhaps life on a man-of-war with its restrictions 
irked him, perhaps he was in trouble, and perhaps it was the South 
Seas and these romantic islands that got into his bones. Every now 
and then they take a man strangely, and he finds himself like a fly in a 
spider’s web. It may be that there was a softness of fibre in him, and 
these green hills with their soft airs, this blue sea, took the northern 
strength from him as Delilah took the Nazarite’s. Anyhow, he wanted 
to hide himself, and he thought he would be safe in this secluded nook 
till his ship had sailed from Samoa. 

“There was a native hut at the cove and as he stood there, wonder- 
ing where exactly he should turn his steps, a young girl came out and 
invited him to enter. He knew scarcely two words of the native tongue 
and she as little English. But he understood well enough what her 
smiles meant, and her pretty gestures, and he followed her. He sat 
down on a mat and she gave him slices of pineapple to eat. I can speak 
of Red only from hearsay, but I saw the girl three years after he first 
met her, and she was scarcely nineteen then. You cannot imagine 
how exquisite she was. She had the passionate grace of the hibiscus and 
the rich colour. She was rather tall, slim, with the delicate features 
of her race, and large eyes like pools of still water under the palm 
trees; her hair, black and curling, fell down her back, and she wore 
a wreath of scented flowers. Her hands were lovely. They were so 


41 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


small, so exquisitely formed, they gave your heart-strings a wrench. 
And in those days she laughed easily. Her smile was so delightful that 
it made your knees shake. Her skin was like a field of ripe corn on a 
summer, day. Good Heavens, how can I describe her? She was too 
beautiful to be real. 

“And these two young things, she was sixteen and he was twenty, 
fell in love with one another at first sight. That is the real love, not 
the love that comes from sympathy, common interests, or intellectual 
community, but love pure and simple. That is the love that Adam felt 
for Eve when he awoke and found her in the garden gazing at him 
with dewy eyes. That is the love that draws the beasts to one another, 
and the Gods. That is the love that makes the world a miracle. That is 
the love which gives life its pregnant meaning. You have never heard 
of the wise, cynical French duke who said that with two lovers there 
is always one who loves and one who lets himself be loved; it is a bit- 
ter truth to which most of us have to resign ourselves; but now and 
then there are two who love and two who let themselves be loved. 
Then one might fancy that the sun stands still as it stood when Joshua 
prayed to the God of Israel. 

“And even now after all these years, when I think of these two, so 
young, so fair, so simple, and of their love, I feel a pang. It tears my 
heart just as my heart is torn when on certain nights I watch the full 
moon shining on the lagoon from an unclouded sky. There is always 
pain in the contemplation of perfect beauty. 

“They were children. She was good and sweet and kind. I know 
nothing of him, and I like to think that then at all events he was in- 
genuous and frank. I like to think that his soul was as comely as his 
body. But I daresay he had no more soul than the creatures of the 
woods and forests who made pipes from reeds and bathed in the 
mountain streams when the world was young, and you might catch 
sight of little fauns galloping through the glade on the back of a 
bearded centaur. A soul is a troublesome possession and when man 
developed it he lost the Garden of Eden. 

“Well, when Red came to the island it had recently been visited by 
one of those epidemics which the white man has brought to the South 
Seas, and one third of the inhabitants had died. It seems that the girl 
^had lost all her near kin and she lived now in the house of distant cous- 

42 



RED 


ins* The household consisted of two ancient crones, bowed and wrin- 
kled, two younger women, and a man and a boy. For a few days he 
stayed there. But perhaps he felt himself too near the shore, with the 
possibility that he might fall in with white men who would reveal his 
hiding-place; perhaps the lovers could not bear that the company of 
others should rob them for an instant of the delight of being together. 
One morning they set out, the pair of them, with the few things 
that belonged to the girl, and walked along a grassy path under the 
coconuts, till they came to the creek you see. They had to cross the 
bridge you crossed, and the girl laughed gleefully because he was 
afraid. She held his hand till they came to the end of the first tree, and 
then his courage failed him and he had to go back. He was obliged to 
take off all his clothes before he could risk it, and she carried them 
over for him on her head. They settled down in the empty hut that 
stood here. Whether she had any rights over it (land tenure is a com- 
plicated business in the islands), or whether the owner had died dur- 
ing the epidemic, I do not know, but anyhow no one questioned them, 
and they took possession. Their furniture consisted of a couple of 
grass mats on which they slept, a fragment of looking-glass, and a 
bowl or two. In this pleasant land that is enough to start housekeeping 
on. 

“They say that happy people have no history, and certainly a happy 
love has none. They did nothing all day long and yet the days seemed 
all too short. The girl had a native name, but Red called her Sally. He 
picked up the easy language very quickly, and he used to lie on the 
mat for hours while she chattered gaily to him. He was a silent fellow, 
and perhaps his mind was lethargic. He smoked incessantly the ciga- 
rettes which she made him out of the native tobacco and pandanus 
leaf, and he watched her while with deft fingers she made grass mats. 
Often natives would come in and tell long stories of the old days when 
the island was disturbed by tribal wars. Sometimes he would go fishing 
on the reef, and bring home a basket full of coloured fish. Sometimes 
at night he would go out with a lantern to catch lobster. There were 
plantains round the hut and Sally would roast them for their frugal 
meal. She knew how to make dehcious messes from coconuts, and the 
breadfruit tree by the side of the creek gave them its fruit. On feast- 
da^s they killed a little pig and cooked it on hot stones. They bathed 

43 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


together in the creek; and in the evening they went down to the la- 
goon and paddled about in a dugout, with its great outrigger. The sea 
was deep blue, wine-coloured at sundown, like the sea of Homeric 
Greece; but in the lagoon the colour had an infinite variety, aqua- 
marine and amethyst and emerald; and the setting sun turned it for a 
short moment to liquid gold. Then there was the colour of the coral, 
brown, white, pink, red, purple; and the shapes it took were marvel- 
lous. It was like a magic garden, and the hurrying fish were like but- 
terflies. It strangely lacked reality. Among the coral were pools with a 
floor of white sand and here, where the water was dazzling clear, it 
was very good to bathe. Then, cool and happy, they wandered back in 
the gloaming over the soft grass road to the creek, walking hand in 
hand, and now the mynah birds filled the coconut trees with their 
clamour. And then the night, with that great sky shining with gold, 
that seemed to stretch more widely than the skies of Europe, and the 
soft airs that blew gently through the open hut, the long night again 
was all too short. She was sixteen and he was barely twenty. The 
dawn crept in among the wooden pillars of the hut and looked at 
those lovely children sleeping in one another’s arms. The sun hid be- 
hind the great tattered leaves of the plantains so that it might not dis- 
turb them, and then, with playful malice, shot a golden ray, like the 
outstretched paw of a Persian cat, on their faces. They opened their 
sleepy eyes and they smiled to welcome another day. The weeks 
lengthened into months, and a year passed. They , seemed to love one 
another as — ^I hesitate to say passionately, for passion has in it always 
a shade of sadness, a touch of bitterness or anguish, but as whole 
heartedly, as simply and naturally as on that first day on which, meet- 
ing, they had recognized that a god was in them. 

^‘If you had asked them I have no doubt that they would have 
thought it impossible to suppose their love could ever cease. Do we not 
know that the essential element of love is a belief in its own eternity? 
And yet perhaps in Red there was already a very little seed, unknown 
to himself and unsuspected by the girl, which would in time have 
grown to weariness. For one day one of the natives from the cove told 
them that some way down the coast at the anchorage was a British 
whaling-ship. 


44 



RED 


“ ‘Gee,’ he said, ‘I wonder if I could make a trade of some nuts and 
plantains for a pound or two of tobacco.’ 

“The pandanus cigarettes that Sally made him with untiring hands 
were strong and pleasant enough to smoke, but they left him unsatis- 
fied; and he yearned on a sudden for real tobacco, hard, rank, and 
pungent. He had not smoked a pipe for many months. His mouth wa- 
tered at the thought of it. One would have thought some premonition 
of harm would have made Sally seek to dissuade him, but love pos- 
sessed her so completely that it never occurred to her any power on 
earth could take him from her. They went up into the hills together 
and gathered a great basket of wild oranges, green, but sweet and 
juicy; and they picked plantains from around the hut, and coconuts 
from their trees, and breadfruit and mangoes; and they carried them 
down to the cove. They loaded the unstable canoe with them, and 
Red and the native boy who had brought them the news of the ship 
paddled along outside the reef. 

“It was the last time she ever saw him. 

“Next day the boy came back alone. He was all in tears. This is the 
story he told. When after their long paddle they reached the ship and 
Red hailed it, a white man looked over the side and told them to come 
on board. They took the fruit they had brought with them and Red 
piled it up on the deck. The white man and he began to talk, and they 
seemed to come to some agreement. One of them went below and 
brought up tobacco. Red took some at once and lit a pipe. The boy 
imitated the zest with which he blew a great cloud of smoke from his 
mouth. Then they said something to him and he went into the cabin. 
Through the open door the boy, watching curiously, saw a bottle 
brought out and glasses. Red drank and smoked. They seemed to ask 
him something, for he shook his head and laughed. The man, the first 
man who had spoken to them, laughed too, and he filled Red’s glass 
once more. They went on talking and drinking, and presently, growing 
tired of watching a sight that meant nothing to him, the boy curled 
himself up on the deck and slept. He was awakened by a kick; and, 
jumping to his feet, he saw that the ship was slowly sailing out of the 
lagoon. He caught sight of Red seated at the table, with his head rest- 
ing heavily on his arms, fast asleep. He made a movement towards 

45 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


him, intending to wake him, but a rough hand seized his arm, and a 
man, with a scowl and words which he did not understand, pointed to 
the side. He shouted to Red, but in a moment he was seized and flung 
overboard. Helpless, he swam round to his canoe which was drifting 
a little way off, and pushed it on to the reef. He climbed in and, sob- 
bing all the way, paddled back to shore. 

‘‘What had happened was obvious enough. The whaler, by desertion 
or sickness, was short of hands, and the captain when Red came 
aboard had asked him to sign on; on his refusal he had made him drunk 
and kidnapped him. 

“Sally was beside herself with grief. For three days she screamed 
and cried. The natives did what they could to comfort her, but she 
would not be comforted. She would not eat. And then, exhausted, 
she sank into a sullen apathy. She spent long days at the cove, watch- 
ing the lagoon, in the vain hope that Red somehow or other would 
manage to escape. She sat on the white sand, hour after hour, with the 
tears running down her cheeks, and at night dragged herself wearily 
back across the creek to the little hut where she had been happy. The 
people with whom she had lived before Red came to the island wished 
her to return to them, but she would not; she was convinced that Red 
would come back, and she wanted him to find her where he had left 
her. Four months later she was delivered of a still-born child, and the 
old woman who had come to help her through her confinement re- 
mained with her in the hut. All joy was taken from her life. If her 
anguish with time became less intolerable it was replaced by a settled 
melancholy. You would not have thought that among these people, 
whose emotions, though so violent, are very transient, a woman could 
be found capable of so enduring a passion. She never lost the pro- 
found conviction that sooner or later Red would come back. She 
watched for him, and every time someone crossed this slender little 
bridge of coconut trees she looked. It might at last be he.” 

Neilson stopped talking and gave a faint sigh. 

“And what happened to her in the end?” asked the skipper. 

Neilson smiled bitterly. 

“Oh, three years afterwards she took up with another white man.” 

The skipper gave a fat, cynical chuckle. 

‘Thaf s generally what happens to them,” he said. 


46 



RED 


The Swede shot him a look of hatred. He did not know why that 
gross, obese man excited in him so violent a repulsion. But his thoughts 
wandered and he found his mind filled with memories of the past. 
He went back five-and-twenty years. It was when he first came to 
the island; weary of Apia, with its heavy drinking, its gambling and 
coarse sensuality, a sick man, trying to resign himself to the loss of the 
career which had fired his imagination with ambitious thoughts. He 
set behind him resolutely all his hopes of making a great name for 
himself and strove to content himself with the few poor months of 
careful life which was all that he could count on. He was boarding 
with a half-caste trader who had a store a couple of miles along the 
coast at the edge of a native village; and one day, wandering aimlessly 
along the grassy paths of the coconut groves, he had come upon the 
hut in which Sally lived. The beauty of the spot had filled him with a 
rapture so great that it was almost painful, and then he had seen Sally. 
She was the loveliest creature he had ever seen, and the sadness in 
those dark, magnificent eyes of hers affected him strangely. The Kan- 
akas were a handsome race, and beauty was not rare among them, but 
it was the beauty of shapely animals. It was empty. But those tragic 
eyes were dark with mystery, and you felt in them the bitter com- 
plexity of the groping, human soul. The trader told him the story 
and it moved him. 

“Do you think he’ll ever come back?” asked Neilson. 

“No fear. Why, it’ll be a couple of years before the ship is paid off, 
and by then he’ll have forgotten all about her. I bet he was pretty 
mad when he woke up and found he’d been shanghaied, and I 
shouldn’t wonder but he wanted to fight somebody. But he’d got to 
grin and bear it, and I guess in a month he was thinking it the best 
thing that had ever happened to him that he got away from the 
island.” 

But-Neilson could not get the story out of his head. Perhaps be- 
cause he was sick and weakly, the radiant health of Red appealed to 
his imagination. Himself an ugly man, insignificant of appearance, he 
prized very highly comeliness in others. He had never been passion- 
ately in love, and certainly he had never been passionately loved. The 
mutual attraction of those two young things gave him a singular de- 
light. It had the ineffable beauty of the Absolute. He went again to 

47 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


the little hut by the creek. He had a gift for languages and an ener- 
getic mind, accustomed to work, and he had already given much time 
to the study of the local tongue. Old habit was strong in him and he 
was gathering together material for a paper on the Samoan speech. 
The old crone who shared the hut with Sally invited him to come in 
and sit down. She gave him kava to drink and cigarettes to smoke. She 
was glad to have someone to chat with and while she talked he 
looked at Sally. She reminded him of the Psyche in the museum at 
Naples. Her features had the same clear purity of line, and though she 
had borne a child she had still a virginal aspect. 

It was not till he had seen her two or three times that he induced 
her to speak. Then it was only to ask him if he had seen in Apia a 
man called Red. Two years had passed since his disappearance, but it 
was plain that she still thought of him incessantly. 

It did not take Neilson long to discover that he was in love with 
her. It was only by an effort of will now that he prevented himself 
from going every day to the creek, and when he was not with Sally 
his thoughts were. At first, looking upon himself as a dying man, he 
asked only to look at her, and occasionally hear her speak, and his love 
gave him a wonderful happiness. He exulted in its purity. He wanted 
nothing from her but the opportunity to weave around her graceful 
person a web of beautiful fancies. But the open air, the equable tem- 
perature, the rest, the simple fare, began to have an unexpected effect 
on his health. His temperature did not soar at night to such alarming 
heights, he coughed less and began to put on weight; six months passed 
without his having a haemorrhage; and on a sudden he saw the pos- 
sibility that he might live. He had studied his disease carefully, and 
the hope dawned upon him that with great care he might arrest its 
course. It exhilarated him to look forward once more to the future. 
He made plans. It was evident that any active life was out of the ques- 
tion, but he could live on the islands, and the small income he had, in- 
sufficient elsewhere, would be ample to keep him. He could grow 
coconuts; that would give him an occupation; and he would send for 
his books and a piano; but his quick mind saw that in aE this he was 
merely trying to conceal from himself the desire which obsessed him. 

He wanted Sally. He loved not only her beauty, but that dim soul 
which he divined behind her suffering eyes. He would intoxicate her 

48 



RED 


with his passion. In the end he would make her forger. And in an ec- 
stasy of surrender he fancied himself giving her too the happiness 
which he had thought never to know again, but had now so miracu- 
lously achieved. 

He asked her to live with him. She refused. He had expected that 
and did not let it depress him, for he was sure that sooner or later she 
would yield. His love was irresistible. He told the old woman of his 
wishes, and found somewhat to his surprise that she and the neigh- 
bours, long aware of them, were strongly urging Sally to accept his 
ojffer. After all, every native was glad to keep house for a white man, 
and Neilson according to the standards of the island was a rich one. 
The trader with whom he boarded went to her and told her not to be 
a fool; such an opportunity would not come again, and after so long 
she could not still believe that Red would ever return. The girl’s re- 
sistance only increased Neilson’s desire, and what had been a very pure 
love now became an agonizing passion. He was determined that noth- 
ing should stand in his way. He gave Sally no peace. At last, worn 
out by his persistence and the persuasions, by turns pleading and angry, 
of everyone around her, she consented. But the day after when, exult- 
ant, he went to see her he found that in the night she had burnt down 
the hut in which she and Red had lived together. The old crone ran 
towards him full of angry abuse of Sally, but he waved her aside; it 
did not matter; they would build a bimgalow on the place where the 
hut had stood. A European house would really be more convenient 
if he wanted to bring out a piano and a vast number of books. 

And so the little wooden house was built in which he had now lived 
for many years, and Sally became *his wife. But after the first few 
weeks of rapture, during which he was satisfied with what she gave 
him, he had known little happiness. She had yielded to him, through 
weariness, but she had only yielded what she set no store on. The soul 
which he had dimly glimpsed escaped him. He knew that she cared 
nothing for him. She still loved Red, and all the time she was waiting 
for his return. At a sign from him, Neilson knew that, notwith- 
standing his love, his tenderness, his sympathy, his generosity, she 
would leave him without a moment’s hesitation. She would never crive 
a thought to his distress. Anguish seized him and he battered at that 
impenetrable self of hers which sullenly resisted him. His love became 


4f 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


bitter. He tried to melt her heart with kindness, but it remained as 
hard as before; he feigned indifference, but she did not notice it. 
Sometimes he lost his temper and abused her, and then she wept si- 
lently. Sometimes he thought she was nothing but a fraud, and that 
soul simply an invention of his own, and that he could not get into the 
sanctuary of her heart because there was no sanctuary there. His love 
became a prison from which he longed to escape, but he had not the 
strength merely to open the door — ^that was all it needed — and walk 
out into the open air. It was torture and at last he became numb and 
hopeless. In the end the fire burnt itself out and, when he saw her 
eyes rest for an instant on the slender bridge, it was no longer rage that 
filled his heart but impatience. For many years now they had lived 
together bound by the ties of habit and convenience, and it was with 
a smile that he looked back on his old passion. She was an old woman, 
for the women on the islands age quickly, and if he had no love for 
her any more he had tolerance. She left him alone. He was contented 
with his piano and his books. 

His thoughts led him to a desire for words. 

“When I look back now and reflect on that brief passionate love of 
Red and Sally, I think that perhaps they should thank the ruthless fate 
that separated them when their love seemed still to be at its height. 
They suffered, but they suffered in beauty. They were spared the real 
tragedy of love.” 

“I don’t know exactly as I get you,” said the skipper. 

“The tragedy of love is not death or separation. How long do you 
think it would have been before one or other of them ceased to care? 
Oh, it is dreadfully bitter to look at a woman whom you have loved 
with all your heart and soul, so that you felt you could not bear to 
let her out of your sight, and realize that you would not mind if you 
never saw her again. The tragedy of love is indifference.” 

But while he was speaking a very extraordinary thing happened. 
Though he had been addressing the skipper he had not been talking to 
Mm, he had been putting his thoughts into words for himself, and 
with his eyes fixed on the man in front of him he had not seen him. 
But now an image presented itself to them, an image not of the man 
he saw, but of another man. It was as though he were looking into 
one of those distorting mirrors that make you extraordinarily squat or 


50 



RED 


outrageously elongate, but here exactly the opposite took place, and in 
the obese, ugly old man he caught the shadowy glimpse of a stripling. 
He gave him now a quick, searching scrutiny. Why had a haphazard 
stroll brought him just to this place? A sudden tremor of his heart 
made him slightly breathless. An absurd suspicion seized him. What 
had occurred to him was impossible, and yet it might be a fact. 

“What is your name?” he asked abruptly. 

The skipper’s face puckered and he gave a cunning chuckle. He 
looked then malicious and horribly vulgar. 

“It’s such a damned long time since I heard it that I almost forget 
it myself. But for thirty years now in the islands they’ve always called 
me Red.” 

His huge form shook as he gave a low, almost silent laugh. It was 
obscene. Neilson shuddered. Red was hugely amused, and from his 
bloodshot eyes tears ran down his cheeks. 

Neilson gave a gasp, for at that moment a woman came in. She was 
a native, a woman of somewhat commanding presence, stout with- 
out being corpulent, dark, for the natives grow darker with age, with 
very grey hair. She wore a black Mother Hubbard, and its thinness 
showed her heavy breasts. The moment had come. 

She made an observation to Neilson about some household matter 
and he answered. He wondered if his voice sounded as unnatural to 
her as it did to himself. She gave the man who was sitting in the chair 
by the window an indifferent glance, and went out of the room. The 
moment had come and gone. 

Neilson for a moment could not speak. He was strangely shaken. 
Then he said: 

“I’d be very glad if you’d stay and have a bit of dinner with me. Pot 
luck.” 

“I don’t think I will,” said Red. “I must go after this fellow Gray, 
m give him his stuff and then I’ll get away. I want to be back in Apia 
tomorrow.” 

“I’ll send a boy along with you to show you the way.” 

“That’U be fine.” 

Red heaved himself out of his chair, while the Swede called one of 
the boys who worked on the plantation. He told him where the skip- 

51 



W; SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


per wanted to go, and the boy stepped along the bridge. Red prepared 
to follow him. 

“Don’t fall in,” said Neilson. 

“Not on your life.” 

Neilson watched him make his way across and when he had disap- 
peared among the coconuts he looked still. Then he sank heavily in 
his chair. Was that the man who had prevented him from being happy? 
Was that the man whom Sally had loved all these years and for whom 
she had waited so desperately? It was grotesque. A sudden fury seized 
him so that he had an instinct to spring up and smash everything 
around him. He had been cheated. They had seen each other at last 
and had not known it. He began to laugh, mirthlessly, and his laughter 
grew till it became hysterical. The Gods had played him a cruel trick. 
And he was old now. 

At last Sally came in to tell him dinner was ready. He sat down in 
front of her and tried to eat. He wondered what she would say if he 
told her now that the fat old man sitting in the chair was the lover 
whom she remembered still with the passionate abandonment of her 
youth. Years ago, when he hated her because she made him so un- 
happy, he would have been glad to tell her. He wanted to hurt her 
then as she hurt him, because his hatred was only love. But now he did 
not care. He shrugged his shoulders listlessly. 

“What did that man -want?” she asked presently. 

He did not answer at once. She was old too, a fat old native woman. 
He wondered why he had ever loved her so madly. He had laid at her 
feet all the treasures of his soul, and she had cared nothing for them. 
Waste, what tvaste! And now, when he looked at her, he felt only con- 
tempt. His patience was at last exhausted. He answered her question. 

“He’s the captain of a schooner. He’s come from Apia.” 

“Yes.” 

“He brought me news from home. My eldest brother is very ill and 
I must go back.” 

“Will you be gone long?” 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM began an eventful life on January 
25, 1874. Born in Paris, where his father was solicitor to the British 

52 



RED 


Embassy, the boy learned to speak French before he knew English. 
His mother died of tuberculosis when he was eight, his father of can- 
cer two years later. His parents’ places were taken by his paternal 
uncle, who was a clergyman at Whitstable in Kent, England, and his 
uncle’s wife. The childless couple seem to have had little notion of 
how to deal with the shy, stammering boy. They sent him at the age 
of thirteen to King’s School in Canterbury, and planned for him to 
prepare at Oxford University to become a clergyman. Instead, he 
went to Heidelberg University in Germany, though he never matric- 
ulated, and chose medicine rather than the church for his vocation. 
In 1892 he became a student in St. Thomas’s Hospital in London; five 
years later he was qualified to practice. He had never been seriously 
interested in becoming a physician, however, and he had already begun 
to write before he left medical school. From 1898 he was a profes- 
sional man of letters. He began to make a name for himself about 1907, 
first as a dramatist and then as a writer of fiction. 

His health, never robust, had been undermined by tuberculosis. In 
'World War I he served with a Red Cross ambulance unit and later in 
the British Intelligence Department. His health broke, and he traveled 
to the South Seas. Though incompletely recovered, he was sent to 
Russia in 1917 to help in the attempt to prevent the Russian revolu- 
tion. After his return, he spent a short time in a sanatorium, where he 
recovered his health. He then traveled extensively, carrying his note- 
book with him, wrote a great deal, and early in the 193 O’s settled in 
a home at Cap Ferrat on the Riviera. World War II, however, saw 
him once more working for his government, this time in Paris. Nearly 
captured by the Germans, he escaped to England and then, in October, 
1940, came to the United States. After the war he returned to Cap Fer- 
rat. 

Maugham has been a prolific author of novels, short stories, plays, 
and essays. It will be possible to speak here only of his novels and short 
stories, in which his themes* are surprisingly few. He presents human 
beings as the slaves of passion, usually sexual, sometimes artistic, and 
at least once religious. The passion is overwhelming, but sometimes 
transitory. It tends to be irrational: that is, a man desires a woman 
despite her manifest unworthiness or the lack of any logical reason for 
their union; another must paint even though he has no ability, or even 
though to be able to paint means sacrificing virtually every other value 
in life. This is one theme. The other main theme which appears fre- 
quently in Maugham’s work is that of the unpredictability of human 
action, or, to speak perhaps a little more accurately, that of the lack 
of cbrrelation between a person’s appearance and Ms behavior, or be- 
tween unexpectedly different patterns of behavior which a person es- 
tablishes. An individual appears placid but is passionate; he appears 

53 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


virmotis but is 'vicio'QS; he appears constant bnt is fickle. Mangham 
saves these themes from being melodramatic and intellectually empty 
by connecting them with certain philosophic generalizations. Thus if 
man is the slave of passion, he is not free to control himself rationally. 
If it can be shown that in other respects, too, man cannot exercise free 
will, a case is made out for determinism.* Maugham’s greatest novel. 
Of Human Bondage (1915), is an elaborate defense of determinism as a 
philosophy. He lends some weight to his other theme, that of the un- 
predictability of human conduct, by insisting at times that he is illus- 
trating the infinite variety of man’s responses, the multitudinous col- 
ors, as it were, which are a part of the very nature of life. 

These themes appear first in Maugham’s second novel. The Making 
^ of a Saint (1898), and may be traced in The Hero (1901), Mrs, Crad- 
dock (1902), The Merry-Go-Round (1904), and The Magician 
(1908). As is implied in the preceding paragraph, they are magnifi- 
cently treated in Of Human Bondage, With that work, it seems, as a 
matter of fact, that Maugham had said all that he had to say about 
life unless his insights deepened as he grew older. They did not. Con- 
sequently, he proceeded to repeat his basic materials in Moon and 
Sixpence (1919), The Painted Veil (1925), Cakes and Ale (1930), The 
Narrov) Corner (1932), Theatre (1937), Christmas Holiday (1939), 
and The Razor^s Edge (1944). The same themes have appeared re- 
peatedly in volumes of his short stories: The Trembling of a Leaf 
(1921), The Casuarina Tree (1926), Ashenden (1928), First Person 
Singular (1931), Ah King (1933), The Mixture as Before (1940). This 
incomplete list of Maugham’s novels and short stories includes all the 
volumes likely to be of interest to anyone but a specialist. 

Maugham’s great fault has been his repetitiveness. He has avoided 
monotony, however, by giving his themes very diversified treatment. 
Thus in the short story “The Letter,” the discrepancy between Leslie 
Crosby’s serene appearance and her passionate inner nature is made the 
basis of an excellent murder story. In “Rain” the power of sexual pas- 
sion produces an unexpected denouement to the attempts of a mission- 
ary to reform a prostitute. In “Red” the overwhelming strength and 
beauty of physical love while it lasts are made tragic by its evanes- 
cence. But by no dexterity in effecting new combinations of materials 
or in exposing new aspects of old situations can Maugham escape the 
fact that he has had too little to say of life. 

His great virtue lies in the fact that he has said that little very well 
indeed. As an architect of stories both long and short he has Ixardly 
been surpassed in England in this century. He has the knack of being 
entertaining. And it would be unfair to him not to add that in his own 
critical work he insists that the primary function of the writer of fic- 
tion is to entertain, not to illustrate ideas. 

54 



RED 


“Red” is taken from The Trembling of a Leaf. Maugham regards it 
as his best short story. 

Maugham’s autobiography, The Summing Up (1938), and A Writ- 
er's Notebook (1949) contain much valuable information concerning 
his development as an artist. Further critical material may be found in 
Richard A. Cordell, W. Somerset Maugham (1937); Hamilton Basso, 
“Profiles: Very Old Party,” Nev) Yorker^ xx (December 30, 1944, and 
January 6, 1945) 24 ff. and 28 fi.; L. A. MacKay, “Somerset Maugham,” 
Canadian Forum^ xvi (May, 1936), 23-24; Woodburn O. Ross, “W. 
Somerset Maugham: Theme and Variations,” College English^ viii 
(1946), 113-122; and Paul Dottin, W. Somerset Maugham et ses ro- 
mans (1928). 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Is it believable that Red would not have returned to Sally 
when he could? Why? Do you think that he could have become as in- 
sensitive to his early love as he is represented as being? Could Sally 
have loved as long and as loyally as she did? (What would you have 
to know — ^which you probably cannot know — to answer this question? 
Does Maugham convince you that he knows?) Is Neilson’s hopeless 
love credible? In short, are the characters realistically drawn? What 
details concerning each character does Maugham include to make the 
character seem as real as possible? 

2. Two of the central facts of the story are the original pas- 
sionate devotion of Red and Sally to each other and the succeeding un- 
controllable love of Neilson for Sally. You have read something about 
Maugham’s basic notions of life. Do you think it likely that in this 
story he first had an idea, or a meaning, and then invented the charac- 
ters and story to present it? If so, the story may be called didactic. 
Some of the evils of didacticism* are: a) the author is likely to stress 
his idea to such an extent that the story and the characters become 
artificial, even stereotyped; b) in the interest of presenting his idea he 
may falsify character or action — ^that is, he may show people behaving 
in a fashion in which, under the circumstances, they would not; c) he 
may obviously preach and thus repel all those (they are many) who 
do not wish to be preached to. Do you think that Maugham (if, in- 
deed, he has written a didactic story) has fallen into any of these 
traps? 

3. Do you think that in Maugham’s opinion any of the charac- 
ters could have behaved differently from the way they did? Do you 
believe that Maugham is inclined to blame the three principal char- 
acters for what they have or have not done? 

4. Do you feel that Sally’s life was tragic? If so, why? Because 

55 



W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM 


she was deserted? Because she could not regain her balance? If Red 
had not run away, what do you think would have happened to her? 
Was Red’s life tragic? If so, was his separation from Sally the principal 
cause? Or was it a lack of imagination and insensitivity to love and 
beauty? Do you think he felt that his life had been tragic? Was Neil- 
son’s life tragic? If so, why? Perhaps from your answers you can for- 
mulate some definite conception of what is meant by the word “trag- 
edy” — at least in some contexts. 

5. Does the beginning of the story catch your interest? Why? 
What hints concerning the identity of the skipper does Maugham give 
before the climax is reached? Do they heighten interest? Why is so 
much emphasis placed upon the beauty of nature? Why, in your opin- 
ion, does Maugham conclude the story with Neilson’s resolve to re- 
turn home? 


S6 




BABYLON REVISITED 

‘‘And where’s Mr. Campbell?” Charlie asked. 

“Gone to Switzerland. Mr. Campbell’s a pretty sick man, Mr. 
Wales.” 

“Fm sorry to hear that. And George Hardt?” Charlie inquired. 

“Back in America, gone to work.” 

“And where is the Snow Bird?” 

“He was in here last week. Anyway, his friend, Mr. Schaeffer, is 
in Paris.” 

Two familiar names from the long list of a year and a half ago. 
Charlie scribbled an address in his notebook and tore out the page. 

“If you see Mr. Schaeffer, give him this,” he said. “It’s my brother- 
in-law’s address. I haven’t settled on a hotel yet.” 

He was not really disappointed to find Paris was so empty. But the 
stillness in the Ritz bar was strange and portentous. It was not an 
American bar any more — ^he felt polite in it, and not as if he owned 
it. It had gone back into France. He felt the stillness from the moment 
he got out of the taxi and saw the doorman, usually in a frenzy of ac- 
tivity at this hour, gossiping with a chasseur by the servants’ entrance. 

Passing through the corridor, he heard only a single, bored voice 
in the once-clamorous women’s room. When he turned into the bar he 
travelled the twenty feet of green carpet with his eyes fixed straight 
ahead by old habit; and then, with his foot firmly on the rail, he 
turned and surveyed the room, encountering only a single pair of eyes 

Reprinted from Taps at Reveille by F. Scott Fitzgerald; copyright, 1935, 
by diaries Scribner’s Sons; used by permission of the publishers. 


57 


F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


that fluttered up from a newspaper in the corner. Charlie asked for the 
head barman, Paul, who in the latter days of the bull market had 
come to work in his own custom-built car — disembarking, however, 
with due nicety at the nearest corner. But Paul was at his country 
house today and Alix giving him information. 

“No, no more,” Charlie said, “Pm going slow these days.” 

Alix congratulated him: “You were going pretty strong a couple of 
years ago.” 

“Ill stick to it all right,” Charlie assured him. “I’ve stuck to it for 
over a year and a half now.” 

“How do you find conditions in America? ” 

“I haven’t been to America for months. I’m in business in Prague, 
representing a couple of concerns there. They don’t know about me 
down there.” 

Alix smiled. 

“Remember the night of George Hardt’s bachelor dinner here?” 
said Charlie. “By the way, what’s become of Claude Fessenden?” 

Alix lowered his voice confidentially: “He’s in Paris, but he doesn’t 
come here any more. Paul doesn’t allow it. He ran up a bill of thirty 
thousand francs, charging all his drinks and his lunches, and usually his 
dinner, for more than a year. And when Paul finally told him he had 
to pay, he gave him a bad check.” 

Alix shook his head sadly. 

“I don’t understand it, such a dandy fellow. Now he’s all bloated 
up ” He made a plump apple of his hands. 

Charlie watched a group of strident queens installing themselves in 
a corner. 

“Nothing affects them,” he thought. “Stocks rise and fail, people 
lo^f or work, but they go on forever.” The place oppressed him. He 
called for the dice and shook with Aik for the drink 

“Here for long, Mr. Wales?” 

“Fm here for four or five days to see my little girl.” 

“Oh-h! You have a little girl?” 

Outside, the fire-red, gas-blue, ghost-green signs shone smokiiy 
through the tranquil rain. It was late afternoon and the streets were in 
movement; the bistros gleamed. At the comer of the Boulevard des 
Capucines he took a taxi. The Place de la Concorde moved by in pink 

58 



BABYLON REVISITED 


majesty; they crossed the logical Seine, and Charlie felt the sudden 
provincial quality of the Left Bank. 

Charlie directed his taxi to the Avenue de FOpera, which was out of 
his way. But he wanted to see the blue hour spread over the magnifi- 
cent facade, and imagine that the cab horns, playing endlessly the first 
few bars of Le Plus que Lent^ were the trumpets of the Second Em- 
pire. They were closing the iron grill in front of Brentano’s Book- 
store, and people were already at dinner behind the trim little 
bourgeois hedge of DuvaFs. He had never eaten at a really cheap res- 
taurant in Paris. Five-course dinner, four francs fifty, eighteen cents, 
wine included. For some odd reason he wished that he had. 

As they rolled on to the Left Bank and he felt its sudden provincial- 
ism, he thought, “I spoiled this city for myself. I didn’t realize it, but 
the days came along one after another, and then two years were gone, 
and everything was gone, and I was gone.” 

He was thirty-five, and good to look at. The Irish mobility of his 
face was sobered by a deep wrinkle between his eyes. As he rang his 
brother-in-law’s bell in the Rue Palatine, the wrinkle deepened till it 
pulled down his brows; he felt a cramping sensation in his belly. From 
behind the maid who opened the door darted a lovely little girl of 
nine who shrieked “Daddy!” and flew up, struggling like a fish, into 
his arms. She pulled his head around by one ear and set her cheek 
against his. 

“My old pie,” he said. 

“Oh, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, dads, dads, dads!” 

She drew him into the salon, where the family waited, a boy and a 
girl his daughter’s age, his sister-in-law and her husband. He greeted 
Marion with his voice pitched carefully to avoid either feigned enthu- 
siasm or dislike, but her response was more frankly tepid, though she 
minimized her expression of unalterable distrust by directing her re- 
gard toward his child. The two men clasped hands in a friendly way 
and Lincoln Peters rested his for a moment on Charlie’s shoulder. 

The room was warm and comfortably American. The three children 
moved intimately about, playing through the yellow oblongs that led 
to other rooms; the cheer of six o’clock spoke in the eager smacks of 
the fire and the sounds of French activity in the kitchen. But Charlie 
did not relax; his heart sat up rigidly in his body and he drew con- 


59 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


fidence from his daughter, who from time to time came close to him, 
holding in her arms the doll he had brought. 

“Really extremely well,” he declared in answer to Lincoln’s ques- 
tion. “There’s a lot of business there that isn’t moving at all, but we’re 
doing even better than ever. In fact, damn well. I’m bringing my sister 
over from America next month to keep house for me. My income last 
year was bigger than it was when I had money. You see, the 
Czechs ” 

His boasting was for a specific purpose; but after a moment, seeing 
a faint restiveness in Lincoln’s eye, he changed the subject: 

“Those are fine children of yours, well brought up, good manners.” 

“We think Honoria’s a great little girl too.” 

Marion Peters came back from the kitchen. She was a tail woman 
with worried eyes, who had once possessed a fresh American loveli- 
ness. Charlie had never been sensitive to it and was always surprised 
when people spoke of how pretty she had been. From the first there 
had been an instinctive antipathy between them. 

“Well, how do you find Honoria?” she asked. 

“Wonderful. I was astonished how much she’s grown in ten months. 
All the children are looking well.” 

“We haven’t had a doctor for a year. How do you like being back 
in Paris?” 

“It seems very funny to see so few Americans around.” 

“Fm delighted,” Marion said vehemently. “Now at least you can go 
into a store without their assuming you’re a millionaire. We’ve suf- 
fered like everybody, but on the whole it’s a good deal pleasanter.” 

“But it was nice while it lasted,” Charlie said. “We were a sort of 
royalty, almost infallible, with a sort of magic around us. In the bar 
this afternoon” — ^he stumbled, seeing his mistake — “there wasn’t a 
man I knew.” 

She looked at him keenly. “I should think you’d have had enough of 
bars.” 

“I only stayed a minute. I take one drink every afternoon, and no 
more.” 

“Don’t you want a cocktail before dinner?” Lincoln asked. 

“I take only one drink every afternoon, and I’ve had that.” 

“I hope you keep to it,” said Marion. 


60 



BABYLON REVISITED 


Her dislike was evident in the coldness with which she spoke, but 
Charlie only smiled; he had larger plans. Her very aggressiveness gave 
him an advantage, and he knew enough to wait. He wanted them to 
initiate the discussion of what they knew had brought him to Paris. 

At dinner he couldn’t decide whether Honoria was most like him 
or her mother. Fortunate if she didn’t combine the traits of both that 
had brought them to disaster. A great wave of protectiveness went 
over him. He thought he knew what to do for her. He believed in 
character; he wanted to jump back a whole generation and trust in 
character again as the eternally valuable element. Everything else 
wore out. 

He left soon after dinner, but not to go home. He was curious to see 
Paris by night with clearer and more judicious eyes than those of 
other days. He bought a strapontin for the Casino and watched Jose- 
phine Baker go through her chocolate arabesques. 

After an hour he left and strolled toward Montmartre, up the Rue 
Pigalle into the Place Blanche. The rain had stopped and there were a 
few people in evening clothes disembarking from taxis in front of cab- 
arets, and CO c ones prowling singly or in pairs, and many Negroes. He 
passed a lighted door from which issued music, and stopped with the 
sense of familiarity; it was Bricktop’s, where he had parted with so 
many hours and so much money. A few doors farther on he found 
another ancient rendezvous and incautiously put his head inside. Im- 
mediately an eager orchestra burst into sound, a pair of professional 
dancers leaped to their feet and a maitre d’hotel swooped toward 
him, crying, “Crowd just arriving, sir!” But he withdrew quickly. 

“You have to be damn drunk,” he thought. 

Zelli’s was closed, the bleak and sinister cheap hotels surrounding it 
were dark; up in the Rue Blanche there was more light and a local, 
colloquial French crowd. The Poet’s Cave had disappeared, but the 
two great mouths of the Cafe of Heaven and the Cafe of Hell still 
yawned — even devoured, as he watched, the meagre contents of a 
tourist bus — a German, a Japanese, and an American couple who 
glanced at him with frightened eyes. 

So much for the effort and ingenuity of Montmartre. All the cater- 
ing to vice and waste was on an utterly childish scale, and he suddenly 
realized the meaning of the word “dissipate” — to dissipate into thin 


61 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 

air; to make nothing out of something. In the little hours of the night 
every move from place to place was an enormous human jump, an in- 
crease of paying for the privilege of slower and slower motion. 

He remembered thousand-franc notes given to an orchestra for 
playing a single number, hundred-franc notes tossed to a doorman 
for calling a cab. 

But it hadn’t been given for nothing. 

It had been given, even the most wildly squandered sum, as an offer- 
ing to destiny that he might not remember the things most worth 
remembering, the things that now he would always remember — his 
child taken from his control, his wife escaped to a grave in Vermont. 

In the glare of a brasserie a woman spoke to him. He bought her 
some eggs and coffee, and then, eluding her encouraging stare, gave 
her a twenty-franc note and took a taxi to his hoteL 

11 

He woke upon a fine fall day — ^football weather. The depression of 
yesterday was gone and he liked the people on the streets. At noon he 
sat opposite Honoria at Le Grand Vatel, the only restaurant he could 
think of not reminiscent of champagne dinners and long luncheons 
that began at two and ended in a blurred and vague twilight. 

“Now, how about vegetables? Oughtn’t you to have some vege- 
tables?” 

“Well, yes.” 

“Here’s epinards and chou-fleur and carrots and haricots^'* 

“Fd like chou-^fleur,^' 

“Wouldn’t you like to have two vegetables?” 

“I usually only have one at lunch.” 

The waiter was pretending to be inordinately fond of children. 
*^Qtdelle est ntignonne la petite! Elle parle exactement comme une 
frangaiseJ^ 

“How about dessert? Shall we wait and see?” 

The waiter disappeared. Honoria looked at her father expectantly. 

“What are we going to do?” 

“First, we’re going to that toy store in the Rue Saint-Honore and 
buy you anything you like. And then we’re going to the vaudeville at 
the Empire.” 


62 



BABYLON REVISITED 


She hesitated. ‘T like it about the vaudeville, but not the toy store.” 

“Why not?” 

“Well, you brought me this doll.” She had it with her. “And Fve got 
lots of things. And we’re not rich any more, are we?” 

“We never were. But today you are to have anything you want.” 

“All right,” she agreed resignedly. 

When there had been her mother and a French nurse he had been 
inclined to be strict; now he extended himself, reached out for a new 
tolerance; he must be both parents to her and not shut any of her out 
of communication. 

“I want to get to know you,” he said gravely. “First let me intro- 
duce myself. My name is Charles J. Wales, of Prague.” 

“Oh, daddy!” her voice cracked with laughter. 

“And who are you, please?” he persisted, and she accepted a role 
immediately; “Honoria Wales, Rue Palatine, Paris.” 

“Married or single?” 

“No, not married. Single.” 

He indicated the doll. “But I see you have a child, madame.” 

Unwilling to disinherit it, she took it to her heart and thought 
quickly: “Yes, I’ve been married, but I’m not married now. My hus- 
band is dead.” 

He went on quickly, “And the child’s name?” 

“Simone. That’s after my best friend at school.” 

“I’m very pleased that you’re doing so well at school.” 

“I’m third this month,” she boasted. “Elsie” — ^that was her cousin — 
“is only about eighteenth, and Richard is about at the bottom.” 

“You like Richard and Elsie, don’t you?” 

“Oh, yes. I like Richard quite well and I like her all right.” 

Cautiously and casually he asked: “And Aunt Marion and Uncle 
Lincoln — ^which do you like best?” 

“Oh, Uncle Lincoln, I guess.” 

He was increasingly aware of her presence. As they came in, a mur- 
mur of . . adorable” followed them, and now the people at the 
next table bent all their silences upon her, staring as if she were some- 
thing no more conscious than a flower. 

“Why don’t I live with you?” she asked suddenly. “Because 
mamma’s dead?” 


63 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


“You must stay here and learn more French. It would have been 
hard for daddy to take care of you so well.” 

“I don’t really need much taking care of any more. I do everything 
for myself.” 

Going out of the restaurant, a man and a woman unexpectedly 
hailed him. 

“Well, the old Wales!” 

“Hello there, Lorraine. . . . Dune.” 

Sudden ghosts out of the past: Duncan Schaeffer, a friend from 
college. Lorraine Quarries, a lovely, pale blonde of thirty; one of a 
crowd who had helped them make months into days in the lavish 
times of three years ago. 

“My husband couldn’t come this year,” she said, in answer to his 
question. “We’re poor as hell. So he gave me two hundred a month 
and told me I could do my worst on that. . . . This your little girl?” 

“What about coming back and sitting down?” Duncan asked. 

“Can’t do it.” He was glad for an excuse. As always, he felt Lor- 
raine’s passionate, provocative attraction, but his own rhythm was dif- 
ferent now. 

“Well, how- about dinner?” she asked. 

“I’m not free. Give me your address and let me call you.” 

“Charlie, 1 believe }"ou’re sober,” she said judicially. “I honestly be- 
lieve he’s sober. Dune. Pinch him and see if he’s sober.” 

Charlie indicated Honoria wdth his head. They both laughed. 

“What’s your address?” said Duncan sceptically. 

He hesitated, unwilling to give the name of his hotel. 

“Fm not settled yet. I’d better call you. We’re going to see the 
vaudeville at the Empire.” 

“There! That’s what I want to do,” Lorraine said. “I want to see 
some clowns and acrobats and jugglers. That’s just what we’ll do, 
Dune.” 

“We’ve got to do an errand first,” said Charlie. “Perhaps we’ll see 
you there.” 

“All right, you snob. . . . Good-by, beautiful little girl.” 
“Good-by.” 

Honoria bobbed politely. 

64 



BABYLON REVISITED 


Somehow, an unwelcome encountei*. They liked him because he 
was functioning, because he was serious; they wanted to see him, be- 
cause he was stronger than they were now, because they wanted to 
draw a certain sustenance from his strength. 

At the Empire, Honoria proudly refused to sit upon her father’s 
folded coat. She was already an individual with a code of her own, and 
Charlie was more and more absorbed by the desire of putting a little 
of himself into her before she crystallized utterly. It was hopeless to 
try to know her in so short a time. 

Between the acts they came upon Duncan and Lorraine in the lobby 
where the band was playing. 

“Have a drink?” 

“All right, but not up at the bar. We’ll take a table,” 

“The perfect father.” 

Listening abstractedly to Lorraine, Charlie watched Honoria’s eyes 
leave their table, and he followed them wistfully about the room, 
wondering what they saw. He met her glance and she smiled. 

“I like that lemonade,” she said. 

What had she said? What had he expected? Going home in a taxi 
afterward, he pulled her over until her head rested against his chest. 

“Darling, do you ever think about your mother?” 

“Yes, sometimes,” she answered vaguely. 

“I don’t want you to forget her. Have you got a picture of her?” 

“Yes, I think so. Anyhow, Aunt Marion has. Why don’t you want 
me to forget her?” 

“She loved you very much.” 

“I loved her too.” 

They were silent for a moment. 

“Daddy, I want to come and live with you,” she said suddenly. 

His heart leaped; he had wanted it to come like this, 

“Aren’t you perfectly happy? ” 

“Yes, but I love you better than anybody. And you love me better 
than anybody, don’t you, now that mummy’s dead?” 

“Of course I do. But you won’t always like me best, honey. You’ll 
grow up and meet somebody your own age and go marry him and 
forget you ever had a daddy.” 


65 



F, SCOTT FITZGERALD 


“Yes, that’s true,” she agreed tranquilly. 

He didn’t go in. He was coming back at nine o’clock and he wanted 
to keep himself fresh and new for the thing he must say then. 

“When you’re safe inside, just show yourself in that window.” 

“All right. Good-by, dads, dads, dads, dads.” 

He waited in the dark street until she appeared, all warm and glow- 
ing, in the window above and kissed her fingers out into the night. 

Ill 

They were waiting. Marion sat behind the coffee service in a digni- 
fied black dinner dress that just faintly suggested mourning. Lincoln 
was walking up and down with the animation of one who had already 
been talking. They were as anxious as he was to get into the question. 
He opened it almost immediately: 

“I suppose you know what I want to see you about — why I really 
came to Paris.” 

Marion played with the black stars on her necklace and frowned. 

“I’m awfully anxious to have a home,” he continued. “And I’m aw- 
fully anxious to have Honoria in it. I appreciate your taking in Honoria 
for her mother’s sake, but things have changed now” — ^he hesitated 
and then continued more forcibly — “changed radically with me, and 
I want to ask you to reconsider the matter. It would be silly for me 
to deny that about three years ago I was acting badly ” 

Marion looked up at him with hard eyes. 

“ ^but all that’s over. As I told you, I haven’t had more than a 

drink a day for over a year, and I take that drink deliberately, so that 
the idea of alcohol won’t get too big in my imagination. You see the 
idea?” 

“No,” said Marion succinctly. 

“It’s a sort of stunt I set myself. It keeps the matter in proportion,” 

“I get you,” said Lincoln. “You don’t want to admit it’s got any 
attraction for you.” 

“Something like that. Sometimes I forget and don’t take it. But I try 
to take it. Anyhow, I couldn’t afford to drink in my position. The 
people I represent are more than satisfied with what I’ve done, and 
I’m bringing my sister over from Burlington to keep house for me, 
and I want awfully to have Honoria too. You know that even when 


66 



BABYLON REVISITED 


her mother and I weren’t getting along well we never let anything 
that happened touch Honoria. I know she’s fond of me and I know I’m 
able to take care of her and — well, there you are. How do you feel 
about it?” 

He knew that now he would have to take a beating. It would last an 
hour or two hours, and it would be difficult, but if he modulated his 
inevitable resentment to the chastened attitude of the reformed sinner, 
he might win his point in the end. 

Keep your temper, he told himself. You don’t want to be justified. 
You want Honoria. 

Lincoln spoke first: “We’ve been talking it over ever since we got 
your letter last month. We’re happy to have Honoria here. She’s a dear 
little thing, and we’re glad to be able to help her, but of course that 
isn’t the question ” 

Marion interrupted suddenly. “How long are you going to stay 
sober, Charlie?” she asked. 

“Permanently, I hope.” 

“How can anybody count on that?” 

“You know I never did drink heavily until I gave up business and 
came over here with nothing to do. Then Helen and I began to run 
around with ” 

“Please leave Helen out of it. I can’t bear to hear you talk about her 
like that.” 

He stared at her grimly; he had never been certain how fond of 
each other the sisters were in life. 

“My drinking only lasted about a year and a half — ^from the time 
we came over until I — collapsed.” 

“It was time enough.” 

“It was time enough,” he agreed. 

“My duty is entirely to Helen,” she said. “I try to think what she 
would have wanted me to do. Frankly, from the night you did that 
terrible thing you haven’t really existed for me. I can’t help that. She 
was my sister.” 

“Yes.” 

“When she was dying she asked me to look out for Honoria. If you 
hadn’t been in a sanitarium then, it might have helped matters.” 

He had no answer. 


67 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


“Fll never in my life be able to forget the morning when Helen 
knocked at my door, soaked to the skin and shivering, and said you’d 
locked her out.” 

Charlie gripped the sides of the chair. This was more difficult than 
he expected^ he wanted to launch out into a long expostulation and 

explanation, but he only said: “The night I locked her out ” and 

she interrupted, “I don’t feel up to going over that again.” 

After a moment’s silence Lincoln said: “We’re getting off the sub- 
ject. You want Marion to set aside her legal guardianship and give you 
Honoria. I think the main point for her is whether she has confidence 
in you or not.” 

“I don’t blame Marion,” Charlie said slowly, “but I think she can 
have entire confidence in me. I had a good record up to three years 
ago. Of course, it’s within human possibilities I might go wrong any 
time. But if we wait much longer I’ll lose Honoria’s childhood and my 
chance for a home.” He shook his head, “I’ll simply lose her, don’t you 
see?” 

“Yes, I see,” said Lincoln. 

“Why didn’t you think of all this before?” Marion asked. 

“I suppose I did, from time to time, but Helen and I were getting 
along badly. When I consented to the guardianship, I was fiat on my 
back in a sanitarium and the market had cleaned me out. I knew I’d 
acted badly, and I thought if it would bring any peace to Helen, I’d 
agree to anything. But now it’s different. I’m functioning. I’m behav- 
ing damn well, so far as ” 

“Please don’t swear at me,” Marion said. 

He looked at her, startled. With each remark the force of her dis- 
like became more and more apparent. She had built up all her fear of 
life into one v’all and faced it toward him. This trivial reproof was 
possibly the result of some trouble with the cook several hours be- 
fore. Charlie became increasingly alarmed at leaving Honoria in this 
atmosphere of hostility against himself; sooner or later it would come 
out, in a word here, a shake of the head there, and some of that dis- 
trust would be irrevocably implanted in Honoria. But he pulled his 
temper down out of his face and shut it up inside him; he had won a 
point, for Lincoln realized the absurdity of Marion’s remark and asked 
her lightly since when she had objected to the word “damn.” 


68 



BABYLON REVISITED 


''Another thing,” Charlie said: “Fm able to give her certain advan- 
tages now. Fm going to take a French governess to Prague with me. 
Fve got a lease on a new apartment— — ” 

He stopped, realizing that h-e was blundering. They couldn’t be ex- 
pected to accept with equanimity the fact that his income was again 
twice as large as their own. 

"I suppose you can give her more luxuries than we can,” said Mar- 
ion. "When you were throwing away money we were living along 
watching every ten francs. ... I suppose you’ll start doing it again.” 

"Oh, no,” he said. "Fve learned. I worked hard for ten years, you 
know — ^until I got lucky in the market, like so many people. Terribly 
lucky. It didn’t seem any use working any more, so I quit. It won’t 
happen again.” 

There was a long silence. All of them felt their nerves straining, 
and for the first time in a year Charlie wanted a drink. He was sure 
now that Lincoln Peters wanted him to have his child. 

Marion shuddered suddenly; part of her saw that Charlie’s feet 
were planted on the earth now, and her own maternal feeling recog- 
nized the naturalness of his desire; but she had lived for a long time 
with a prejudice — a prejudice founded on a curious disbelief in her 
sister’s happiness, and which, in the shock of one terrible night, had 
turned to hatred for him. It had all happened at a point in her life 
where the discouragement of ill health and adverse circumstances 
made it necessary for her to believe in tangible villainy and a tangible 
villain. 

"I can’t help what I think!” she cried out suddenly. “How much you 
were responsible for Helen’s death, I don’t know. It’s something you’ll 
have to square with your own conscience.” 

An electric current of agony surged through him; for a moment he 
was almost on his feet, an unuttered sound echoing in his throat. He 
hung on to himself for a moment, another moment. 

“Hold on there,” said Lincoln uncomfortably. "I never thought 
you were responsible for that.” 

"Helen died of heart trouble,” Charlie said dully. 

"Yes, heart trouble.” Marion spoke as if the phrase had another 
meaning for her. 

Then, in the flatness that followed her outburst, she saw him plainly 

69 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


and she knew he had somehow arrived at control over the situation. 
Glancing at her husband, she found no help from him, and as abruptly 
as if it were a matter of no importance, she threw up the sponge. 

‘‘Do what you like!” she cried, springing up from her chair. “She’s 
your child. I’m not the person to stand in your way. I think if it were 

my child I’d rather see her She managed to check herself. “You 

two decide it. I can’t stand this. I’m sick. I’m going to bed.” 

She hurried from the room; after a moment Lincoln said: 

“This has been a hard day for her. You know how strongly she 

feels His voice was almost apologetic: “When a woman gets an 

idea in her head.” 

“Of course.” 

“It’s going to be ail right. I think she sees now that you — can provide 
for the child, and so we can’t very well stand in your way or Honoria’s 
way.” 

“Thank you, Lincoln.” 

“I’d better go along and see how she is.” 

“I’m going.” 

He was still trembling when he reached the street, but a walk down 
the Rue Bonaparte to the quais set him up, and as he crossed the Seine, 
fresh and new by the quai lamps, he felt exultant. But back in his room 
he couldn’t sleep. The image of Helen haunted him. Helen whom he 
had loved so izntil they had senselessly begun to abuse each other’s 
love, tear it into shreds. On that terrible February night that Marion 
remembered so vividly, a slow quarrel had gone on for hours. There 
was a scene at the Florida, and then he attempted to take her home, 
and then she kissed young Webb at a table; after that there was what 
she had hysterically said. When he arrived home alone he turned the 
key in the lock in wild anger. How could he know she would arrive an 
hour later alone, that there would be a snowstorm in which she wan- 
dered about in slippers, too confused to find a taxi? Then the after- 
math, her escaping pneumonia by a miracle, and all the attendant 
horror. They were “reconciled,” but that was the beginning of the 
end, and Marion, who had seen with her own eyes and who imagined 
it to be one of many scenes from her sister’s martyrdom, never forgot. 

Going over it again brought Helen nearer, and in the white, soft 
light that steals upon half sleep near morning he found himself talking 

70 



BABYLON REVISITED 


to her again. She said that he was perfectly right about Honoria and 
that she wanted Honoria to be with him. She said she was glad he was 
being good and doing better. She said a lot of other things — ^very 
friendly things — ^but she was in a swing in a white dress, and swinging 
faster .and faster all the time, so that at the end he could not hear 
clearly all that she said. 


IV 

He woke up feeling happy. The door of the world was open again. 
He made plans, vistas, futures for Honoria and himself, but suddenly 
he grew sad, remembering all the plans he and Helen had made. She 
had not planned to die. The present was the thing — ^work to do and 
someone to love. But not to love too much, for he knew the injury that 
a father can do to a daughter or a mother to a son by attaching them 
too closely: afterward, out in the world, the child would seek in the 
marriage partner the same blind tenderness and, failing probably to 
find it, turn against love and life. 

It was another bright, crisp day. He called Lincoln Peters at the 
bank where he worked and asked if he could count on taking Honoria 
when he left for Prague. Lincoln agreed that there was no reason for 
delay. One thing — the legal guardianship. Marion wanted to retain that 
a while longer. She was upset by the whole matter, and it would oil 
things if she felt that the situation was still in her control for another 
year. Charlie agreed, wanting only the tangible, visible child. 

Then the question of a governess. Charlie sat in a gloomy agency 
and talked to a cross Bernaise and to a buxom Breton peasant, neither 
of whom he could have endured. There were others whom he would 
see tomorrow. 

He lunched with Lincoln Peters at Griffons, trying to keep down 
his exultation. 

‘‘There’s nothing quite like your own child,” Lincoln said. “But you 
understand how Marion feels too.” 

“She’s forgotten how hard I worked for seven years there,” Charlie 
said. “She just remembers one night.” 

“There’s another thing.” Lincoln hesitated. “While you and Helen 
were tearing around Europe throwing money away, we were just get- 
ting along. I didn’t touch any of the prosperity because I never got 


71 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


ahead enough to carry anything but my insurance. I think Marion 
felt there was some kind of injustice in it — ^you not even working to- 
ward the end, and getting richer and richer.” 

“It went just as quick as it came,” said Charlie. 

“Yes, a lot of it stayed in the hands of chasseurs and saxophone play- 
ers and maitres d’hotel — ^well, the big party’s over now. I just said that 
to explain Marion’s feeling about those crazy years. If you drop in 
about six o’clock tonight before Marion’s too tired, well settle the 
details on the spot.” 

Back at his hotel, Charlie found a pneumatique that had been re- 
directed from the Ritz bar where Charlie had left his address for the 
purpose of finding a certain man. 


Dear Charlie: You were so strange when we saw you the other day 
that I wondered if I did something to offend you. If so, I’m not con- 
scious of it. In fact, I have thought about you too much for the last 
year, and it’s always been in the back of my mind that I might see you 
if I came over here. We did have such good times that crazy spring, 
like the night you and I stole the butcher’s tricycle, and the time we 
tried to call on the president and you had the old derby rim and the 
wire cane. Everybody seems so old lately, but I don’t feel old a bit. 
Couldn’t we get together some time today for old time’s sake? I’ve 
got a vile hang-over for the moment, but will be feeling better this 
afternoon and will look for you about five in the sweat-shop at the 
Ritz. 


Always devotedly, 


Lorraine. 


His first feeling was one of awe that he had actually, in his mature 
years, stolen a tricycle and pedalled Lorraine all over the Etoile be- 
tween the small hours and dawn. In retrospect it was a nightmare. 
Locking out Helen didn’t fit in with any other act of his life, but the 
tricycle incident did — ^it was one of many. How many weeks or 
months of dissipation to arrive at that condition of utter irresponsi- 
bility? 

He tried to picture how Lorraine had appeared to him then — ^very 
attractive; Helen was unhappy about it, though she said nothing. Yes- 
terday, in the restaurant, Lorraine had seemed trite, blurred, worn 
away. He emphatically did not want to see her, and he was glad Alix 

72 



BABYLON REVISITED 


had not given away his hotel address. It was a relief to think, instead, 
of Honoria, to think of Sundays spent with her and of saying good 
morning to her and of knowing she was there in his house at night, 
drawing her breath in the darkness. 

At five he took a taxi and bought presents for all the Peters — a pi- 
quant cloth doll, a box of Roman soldiers, flowers for Marion, big 
linen handkerchiefs for Lincoln. 

He saw, when he arrived in the apartment, that Marion had ac- 
cepted the inevitable. She greeted him now as though he were a 
recalcitrant member of the family, rather than a menacing outsider. 
Honoria had been told she was going; Charlie was glad to see that her 
tact made her conceal her excessive happiness. Only on his lap did she 
whisper her delight and the question “When?” before she slipped away 
with the other children. 

He and Marion were alone for a minute in the room, and on an im- 
pulse he spoke out boldly: 

“Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any 
rules. They’re not like aches or wounds; they’re more like splits in 
the skin that won’t heal because there’s not enough material. I wish 
you and I could be on better terms.” 

“Some things are hard to forget,” she answered. “It’s a question of 
confidence.” There was no answer to this and presently she asked, 
“When do you propose to take her?” 

“As soon as I can get a governess. I hoped the day after tomorrow.” 

“That’-s impossible. I’ve got to get her things in shape. Not before 
Saturday,” 

He yielded. Coming back into the room, Lincoln offered him 
a drink, 

“I’ll take my daily whisky,” he said. 

It was warm here, it was a home, people together by a fire. The chil- 
dren felt very safe and important; the mother and father were serious, 
watchful. They had things to do for the children more important than 
his visit here. A spoonful of medicine was, after all, more important 
than the strained relations between Marion and himself. They were 
not dull people, but they were very much in the grip of life and cir- 
cumstances. He wondered if he couldn’t do something to get Lincoln 
out of his rut at the bank. 


73 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


A long peal at the door-bell; the bonne a tout fake passed through 
and went down the corridor. The door opened upon another long ring, 
and then voices, and the three in the salon looked up expectantly; 
Richard moved to bring the corridor within his range of vision, and 
Marion rose. Then the maid came back along the corridor, closely fol- 
lowed by the voices, which developed under the light into Duncan 
Schaeffer and Lorraine Quarries. 

They were gay,, they were hilarious, they were roaring with laugh- 
ter. For a moment Charlie was astounded; unable to understand how 
they ferreted out the Peters’ address. 

“Ah-h-h!” Duncan wagged his finger roguishly at Charlie. 
‘‘Ah-h-h!” 

They both slid down another cascade of laughter. Anxious and at a 
loss, Charlie shook hands with them quickly and presented them to 
Lincoln and Marion. Marion nodded, scarcely speaking. She had 
drawn back a step toward the fire; her little girl stood beside her, and 
Marion put an arm about her shoulder. 

With growing annoyance at the intrusion, Charlie waited for them 
to explain themselves. After some concentration Duncan said: 

“We came to invite you out to dinner. Lorraine and I insist that all 
this shishi, cagy business ’bout your address got to stop.” 

Charlie came closer to them, as if to force them backward down the 
corridor. 

“Sorry, but I can’t. Tell me where you’ll be and m phone you in 
half an hour.” 

This made no impression. Lorraine sat down suddenly on the side of 
a chair, and focussing her eyes on Richard, cried, “Oh, what a 
nice little boy! Come here, little boy.” Richard glanced at his mother, 
but did not move. With a perceptible shrug of her shoulders, Lorraine 
turned back to Charlie: 

“Come and dine. Sure your cousins won’ mine. See you so seFom. 
Or solemn.” 

“I can’t,” said Charlie sharply. “You two have dinner and FU phone 
you.” 

Her voice became suddenly unpleasant. “All right, weTl go. But I 
remember once when you hammered on my door at four a.m. I was 
enough of a good sport to give you a drink. Come on, Dune.” 

74 



BABYLON REVISITED 


Still in slow motion, with blurred, angry faces, with uncertain feet, 
they retired along the corridor. 

“Good night,” Charlie said. 

“Good night!” responded Lorraine emphatically. 

When he went back into the salon Marion had not moved, only now 
her son was standing in the circle of her other arm. Lincoln was still 
swinging Honoria back and forth like a pendulum from side to side. 

“What an outrage!” Charlie broke out. “What an absolute outrage!” 

Neither of them answered. Charlie dropped into an armchair, 
picked up his drink, set it down again and said; 

“People I haven’t seen for two years having the colossal nerve ” 

He broke oS. Marion had made the sound “Oh!” in one swift, furi- 
ous breath, turned her body from him with a jerk and left the room. 

Lincoln set down Honoria carefully. 

“You children go in and start your soup,” he said, and when they 
obeyed, he said to Charlie: 

“Marion’s not well and she can’t stand shocks. That kind of people 
make her really physically sick.” 

“I didn’t tell them to come here. They wormed your name out of 
somebody. They deliberately ” 

“Well, it’s too bad. It doesn’t help matters. Excuse me a minute,” 

Left alone, Charlie sat tense in his chair. In the next room he could 
hear the children eating, talking in monosyllables, already oblivious to 
the scene between their elders. He heard a murmur of conversation 
from a farther room and then the ticking bell of a telephone receiver 
picked up, and in a panic he moved to the other side of the room and 
out of earshot. 

In a minute Lincoln came back. “Look here, Charlie. I think we’d 
better call off dinner for tonight. Marion!s in bad shape.” 

“Is she angry with me?” 

“Sort of,” he said, almost roughly. “She’s not strong and 

“You mean she’s changed her mind about Honoria?” 

“She’s pretty bitter right now. I don’t know. You phone me at the 
bank tomorrow.” 

“I wish you’d explain to her I never dreamed these people would 
come here. I’m just as sore as you are.” 

“I couldn’t explain anything to her now.” 


75 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


Charlie got up. He took his coat and hat and started down the corri- 
dor. Then he opened the door of the dining room and said in a strange 
voice, “Good night, children.” 

Honoria rose and ran around the table to hug him. 

“Good night, sweetheart,” he said vaguely, and then trying to make 
his voice more tender, trying to conciliate something. “Good night, 
dear children.” 


V 

Charlie went directly to the Ritz bar with the furious idea of finding 
Lorraine and Duncan, but they were not there, and he realized that in 
any case there was nothing he could do. He had not touched his drink 
at the Peters’, and now he ordered a whisky-and-soda. Paul came over 
to say hello. 

“It’s a great change,” he said sadly. “We do about half the business 
we did. So many fellows I hear about back in the States lost every- 
thing, maybe not in the first crash, but then in the second. Your friend 
George Hardt lost every cent, I hear. Are you back in the States?” 

“No, I’m in business in Prague.” 

“I heard that you lost a lot in the crash.” 

“1 did,” and he added grimly, “but I lost everything I wanted in the 
boom.” 

“Selling short.” 

“Something like that.” 

Again the memory of those days swept over him like a nightmare — 
the people they had met travelling; then people who couldn’t add a 
row of figures or speak a coherent sentence. The little man Helen had 
consented to dance with at the ship’s party, who had insulted her ten 
feet from the table; the women and girls carried screaming with drink 
or drugs out of public places 

^The men who locked their wives out in the snow, because the 

snow of twenty-nine wasn’t real snow. If you didn’t want it to 
be snow, you just paid some money. 

He went to the phone and called the Peters’ apartment; Lincoln 
answered. 

“I called up because this thing is on my mind. Has Marion said any- 
thing definite?” 

76 



BABYLON REVISITED 


“Marion’s sick,” Lincoln answered abruptly. “I know this thing isn’t 
altogether your fault, but I can’t have her go to pieces about it. I’m 
afraid we’ll have to let it slide for six months; I can’t take the chance 
of working her up to this state again.” 

“I see.” 

“Fm sorry, Charlie.” 

He went back to his table. His whisky glass was empty, but he shook 
his head when Alix looked at it questioningly. There wasn’t much he 
could do now except send Honoria some things; he would send her a 
lot of things tomorrow. He thought rather angrily that this was just 
money — he had given so many people money. . . . 

“No, no more,” he said to another waiter. “What do I owe you?” 

He would come back some day; they couldn’t make him pay for- 
ever. But he wanted his child, and nothing was much good now, beside 
that fact. He wasn’t young any more, with a lot of nice thoughts and 
dreams to have by himself. He was absolutely sure Helen wouldn’t 
have wanted him to be so alone. 

FRANCIS SCOTT KEY FITZGERALD (his mother was a distant 
cousin of the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner”) was born in St. 
Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896. Though his parents were not 
wealthy, he was sent east to a private school for his last two prepara- 
tory years, and then, in 1913, to Princeton University. He was no 
scholar; his principal concern at Princeton was to achieve social and 
literary prominence. He worked hard at his task. Early in his junior 
year his health broke, partly because his extra-curricular activities 
were so numerous, and he was forced to withdraw from the Univer- 
sity. Though the withdrawal was a bitter blow, costing him his hard- 
won campus position, it possibly saved him from humiliation, for his 
grades were so low that the University might have been forced to ask 
him to leave. He returned in September of the next year, but left again 
in two months to join the army. He never took a degree. As a young 
lieutenant he was assigned to Fort Sheridan, and there met Zelda Sayre. 
She was beautiful, vivacious, glamorous. Fitzgerald fell irretrievably 
in love. She fell in love with him, too, but without losing her sense of 
the value of money, of which Fitzgerald had none. Discharged from 
the army at the end of the war, he went to New York to make a for- 
tune so that he might marry. He found that he was unable to com- 
mand a respectable salary and retired in deep discouragement to St. 
Paul to hazard all on the rewriting of a novel, This Side of Paradise, 
which he had begun at Princeton. The book was accepted, he married 

77 



F, SCOTT FITZGERALD 


Zelda (spring, 1920), and an amazing career began. His literary work 
became so popular that he earned tremendous sums — ^in one six-month 
period he made over |17,000 writing short stories — ^but he was always 
in debt because he lived beyond his means. The Fitzgeralds became 
symbols of the unconventionality, the revolt, and the adolescent ir- 
responsibility of the jazz age. “They rode down Fifth Avenue on the 
tops of taxis because it was hot,” writes Arthur Mizener, “or dove 
into the fountain at Union Square or tried to undress at the Scandals^ 
or, in sheer delight at the splendor of New York, jumped, dead sober, 
into the Pulitzer fountain in front of the Plaza.” They drank. They 
gave parties. Among the rules which they drew up for house guests 
was one which requested visitors “not to break down doors in search 
of liquor, when even authorized to do so by the host and hostess.” In 
the summer of 1921 the Fitzgeralds visited Europe, and that winter 
they retired to St. Paul for the birth of their only child. 

Despite his dissipation, Fitzgerald worked at his writing; but no 
amount of industry made it possible for him to pay his bills. In 1924 he 
and his family went to Europe again, this time to live where their 
money would go farther. Except for brief interludes they remained 
there until 1931. Sometime during this period their lives slowly ceased 
to be gay and carefree. They found that they had squandered not 
merely money but their energies and, in some strange fashion, their 
very love for each other. They tended to drift apart. In 1930 Zelda 
had a mental breakdown from which she never completely recovered. 
Fitzgerald himself had to struggle against flagging spirits and failing 
health. In 1935 he was found to have tuberculosis. Apparently he had 
previously suffered undiagnosed attacks. In 1937 he went to Holly- 
wood to write for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and for a while enjoyed 
considerable success. He could not completely conquer his alcoholism, 
however, and his Hollywood career came to a disastrous climax when 
his trip to Dartmouth College to assist in the development of a picture 
based on the Dartmouth Winter Carnival turned into a binge. In De- 
cember, 1940, his gaudy and tragic life was ended by a heart attack. 

Fitzgerald’s basic attitudes toward life appear clearly in his novels. 
The £rst, as has been mentioned, was This Side of Paradise (1920), an 
immature, episodic story of the extravagantly romantic loves and half- 
formed, late adolescent ideas of a Princeton undergraduate. The book 
reflects a love of physical beauty, of grace, and of money, and burning 
ambition for social dominance, on the one hand, and on the other a 
fear that these ideals are hollow and lead only to tragedy. His second 
novel, much more coherent, was The Beautiful and Damned (1922). 
It is a tragedy, tracing the gradual spiritual exhaustion of two jazz-age 
lovers. His masterpiece, The Great Gatsby (1925), came next. Suc- 
cinctly it portrays a gangster who, despite his lawlessness, is at the bot- 

78 



BABYLON REVI.SITED 


tom of his soul incorruptible. He unsuccessfully woos a wealthy and 
beautiful girl who, although superficially respectable, is subtly cor- 
rupt. The last completed novel and most ambitious psychological study 
is Tender Is the Night (1934). It presents the decline and dissolution 
of the marriage between a young psychiatrist and a patient. At the 
end of the book she is completely cured, and he has lost will, ambition, 
and the power to love. Fitzgerald wrote only about half of his final 
novel. The Last Tycoon (1941). It is the story of the decline and 
death of a powerful Hollywood movie producer who had taste and 
integrity. Fitzgerald published innumerable short stories, many of them 
ephemeral. Some he collected and published in the following volumes: 
Flappers and Philosophers (1921), Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), All 
the Sad Young Men (1926), and Taps at Reveille (1935). After his 
death Edmund Wilson collected certain of his essays, notes, and let- 
ters and published them as The Crack-Up (1945). 

It appears paradoxical that the major works of Fitzgerald, whose 
early adult life, better than that of any other major American author, 
expressed the joyous revolt of the jazz age, should have had tragic 
subjects. The fact is that Fitzgerald always had a kind of double per- 
sonality. He frankly wanted money; he loved luxury; he basked in 
limelight; he was a social snob. But there was always in him a Puritan 
who suspected that there were better values than those he had found, 
and who remembered the wages of sin. Both personalities spoke in 
his fiction. His novels are laid in a world of wealth, luxury, and (at 
least would-be) refinement; his characters try to live appropriately but 
somehow meet a destruction whose cause is never clearly isolated and 
explained. The fact is that Fitzgerald, though an amazingly keen ob- 
server, was not an original thinker. Andrews Wanning, asking him- 
self how “a man so sensitive as Fitzgerald came by what is almost 
a worship of money,” replies, “First of all, I suppose, because nobody 
taught him anything else.” The worldly values which he celebrated 
were obvious and so he accepted them; mature ethical and spiritual 
values were more elusive, and he never did more than sense their exist- 
ence. He did evolve one theory to account for the failure of the world 
in which he lived and which he represented. He came to believe that 
every man has but a strictly limited stock of emotional or psychic en- 
ergy, and that, when he habitually indulges himself excessively, he 
presently runs down like an automobile running out of gas, approach- 
ing exhaustion in a series of convulsive efforts to start again like those 
of the slowing car. It is this rather esoteric notion, never adequately 
illuminated in his fiction, which explains to a considerable extent the 
tendency of his characters to burn out quickly. Since Fitzgerald never 
went far beyond this idea in his thinking, he provided no complex 
analysis of the reasons for the developing tragedies in his novels. 


79 



F. SCOTT FITZGERALD 


His popularity in the 1920’s is accounted for in part by a value 
v/hich critics seem likely to recognize in his work permanently. He 
could imitate life. He might not explain its events in any important 
sense, but he was most sensitive to the scene about him, and he could 
transfer it to paper. His characters live. Besides this, in spite of the 
mixture in his character, or perhaps because of it, he reflected authen- 
tically the rebellious desires and the suppressed fears of much of the 
American society which he knew. If Hemingway chronicled the de- 
spair of the post-World War I generation, Fitzgerald recorded its 
abandon. He never learned to spell and, especially in his early works, 
frequently misused words. Such sins may be forgiven him, however, 
for he had an excellent sense of the rhythms of words, and his lan- 
guage was fluent and imaginative. 

“Babylon Revisited” is taken from Taps at Reveille. 

Arthur Mizener has written a biography of Fitzgerald, The Far Side 
of Paradise (1951); Alfred Kazin has collected some thirty critical 
essays into a single volume, F, Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His 
Work (1951); and Budd Schulberg has written a novel based upon 
Fitzgerald’s Dartmouth escapade. The Disenchanted (1950). 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

L What is the theme* of this story? 

2. Why did Charlie become irresponsible during his life in Paris 
before the stock market crash? Contrast his reactions to the times with 
those of Marion. Do you suspect that she too was injured? Explain 
Charlie’s remark “I lost everything I wanted in the boom.” What do 
these words suggest concerning his present values? Charlie reflects, 

. . The snow of twenty-nine wasn’t real snow. If you didn’t want 
it to be snow, you just paid some money.” Discuss both sentences as 
interpretations of the attitudes of many Americans just before the 
Great Depression. (If you are unfamiliar with the history of the 
United States in the 1920’s, explain the sentences as symbolizing possi- 
ble human attitudes at any place and in any time.) 

3. Clearly this story, besides exploring an immediate human situa- 
tion, contrasts aspects of the pre-1929 and the post-1929 worlds. Men- 
tion as many specific situations and events in the story as you can 
which seem to symbolize the change in people’s attitudes and conduct. 
Do you think a story such as this can interpret successfully aspects of 
historical developments? Let us explore this matter. Is this story of 
the immediate past true? (Is the story true to fact? That is, so far as 
you are aware did these precise events ever occur? Is the story true 
to principle? That is, in your opinion, are events similar to these, 
events of wliich these are in one way or another representative, likely 

80 



BABYLON REVISITED 


to have occurred?) Presumably history is always true to fact; what 
the historian says happened, did occur. Can you draw up some kind 
of contrast between literary and historical truth? The historian inter- 
preting an era must use as his material what really took place. The 
imaginative writer is not restricted in just this fashion, but if he is to 
write an interpretation true to the atmosphere of a time, he must 
choose his material with care. What are some criteria which it seems 
to you he must use? Is it possible for him perhaps to devise more mov- 
ing and informative symbols than those with which the record pro- 
vides the historian? May he perhaps enjoy an advantage in that he 
may shape, arrange, his materials as he chooses? Possibly the historian 
and the imaginative artist who attempts to interpret a period in history 
seem to you astonishingly similar. What are some important diiferences 
between them? In answering, consider their materials, the sources of 
their materials, their methods, and their purposes, 

4. Explain why the intrusion of Duncan and Lorraine near the 
end of the story upsets Charlie’s plans. Does Marion really become ill, 
or does she pretend? Does she suspect that Charlie has not reformed? 
Marion is the least sympathetic character in the story. Consider her 
conduct carefully to see why readers do not admire her. 

5. Trace resemblances between this story and the story of Fitz- 
gerald’s life. In general, what advantages do you think an author gains 
by using his own experiences in fiction? What may he sacrifice? 


81 




MAN AND WOMAN 

They came slowly up 
the road through the colorless dawn like shadows left behind by the 
night. There was no motion in their bodies, and yet their feet scuffed 
up dust that settled behind them as quickly as it was raised. They 
lifted their eyes with each step they took, peering toward the horizon 
for the first red rays of the sun. 

The woman held her lower lip clamped tightly between her teeth. 
It hurt her to do that, but it was the only way she could urge herself 
forward step after step. There was no other way to drag her feet one 
behind the other, mile after mile. She whimpered occasionally, but 
she did not cry out. 

‘‘It’s time to stop and rest again,” Ring said. 

She did not answer him. 

They kept on. 

At the top of the hill, they came face to face with the sun. It was a 
quarter of the way up, cut like a knife by the treeless horizon. Down 
below them was a valley lying under a cover of mist that was rising 
slowly from the earth. They could see several houses and farms, but 
most of them were so far away they were almost indistinguishable in 
the mist. There was smoke rising from the chimney of the first house. 

Ruth looked at the man beside her. The red rays of the sun had 
begun to color his pale face like blood. But still his eyes were tired 
and lifeless. He looked as if he were balancing himself on his two feet 
with great effort, and as if the next moment he might lose his balance 
and fall to the ground- 

Reprinted by permission of the publishers, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, Inc. 
Copyright, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1938, and 1940 by Erskine Caldwell. 

82 



MAN AND WOMAN 


‘We’ll be able to get a little something to eat at that first house,” 
she said, waiting minute after minute for him to reply, 

“We’ll get something there,” she said, answering for him. “We will.” 

The sun came up above the horizon, fast and red. Streaks of gray 
clouds, like layers of wood smoke, swam across the face of it. Almost 
as quickly as it had risen, the sun shrank into a small fiery button that 
seared the eyes until it was impossible to look at it any longer. 

“Let’s try, anyway,” Ruth said. 

"Ring looked at her in the clear daylight, seeing her for the first time 
since the sun had set the night before. Her face was paler, her cheeks 
more sunken. 

Without words, he started forward down the hill. He did not turn 
his head to see if she was following him, but went down the road 
drawing one foot from behind and hurling it in front of him with all 
his might. There was no other way he could move himself over the 
ground. 

He had stopped at the front of the house, looking at the smoke that 
floated overhead, when she caught up with him at last. 

“I’ll go in and try,” she said. “You sit down and rest, Ring.” 

He opened his mouth to say something, but his throat became 
choked and no words came. He looked at the house, with its worn 
doorstep and curtain-filled windows and its smoke-filled chimney, 
and he did not feel like a stranger in a strange country as long as he 
kept his eyes upon those things. 

Ruth went through the gate, and around the side of the house, and 
stopped at the kitchen door. She looked behind her and saw Ring 
coming across the yard from the road. 

Someone was watching them from behind a curtain at the window. 

“Knock,” Ring said. 

She placed the knuckles of her right hand against the side of the 
house and rapped on the clapboards until her hand began to hurt. 

She turned around and glanced quickly at Ring, and he nodded his 
head. 

Presently the kitchen door opened a few inches and a woman’s head 
could be seen through the crack. She was middle-aged and brown- 
faced and had a long, thick scar on her forehead that looked as if it 
might have been made by a bursting fruit jar. 


83 



ERSKINE CALDWELL 


“Go away,” she told them. 

“We won’t bother you,” Ruth said as quickly as she could. “All we 
wanted was to ask you if you could give us a little something to eat. 
Just a potato, if you have any, or bread, or something.” 

“I don’t know what you are doing here,” the woman said. “I don’t 
like to have strange people around my house.” 

She almost closed the door, but in a moment the crack widened, and 
her face could be seen once more. 

“I’ll feed the girl,” she said finally, “but I can’t let the man have any- 
thing. I don’t have enough for both of you, anyway.” 

Ruth turned quickly around, her heels digging into the sandy earth. 
She looked at Ring. He nodded his head eagerly. 

He could see the word forming on her lips even though he could 
not hear it. She shook her head. 

Ring went several steps toward her. 

“We’ll try somewhere else,” she said. 

“No,” he said. “You go in and eat what she’ll give you. I’ll try at the 
next house we come to.” 

She still did not wish to go into the house without him. The woman 
opened the door a foot or more, and waited for her to come up the 
steps. 

Ring sat down on a bench under a tree. 

“I’m going to sit here and wait until you go in and get something to 
eat for yourself,” he said. 

Ruth went up the steps slowly to the porch and entered the door. 
When she was inside, the woman pointed out a chair by a table, and 
Ruth sat down. 

There were potatoes, warmed over from the night before, and cold 
biscuits. These were put on the table in front of her, and then the 
woman poured a cup of hot coffee and set it beside the plate. 

Ruth began to eat as quickly as she could, sipping the hot black 
coffee and chewing the potatoes and bread while the brown-faced 
woman stood behind her at the door, where she could watch Ring and 
her by turns. 

Twice Ruth managed to slip pieces of bread into her blouse, and 
finally she got half a potato into the pocket of her skirt. The woman 

84 



MAN AND WOMAN 


eyed her suspiciously when she was not watching Ring in the yard out- 
side. 

“Going far?” the woman asked. 

“Yes,” Ruth answered. 

“Come far?” the woman asked. 

“Yes,” Ruth said. 

“Who is that man with you?” 

“He’s my husband,” Ruth told her. 

The woman looked out into the yard again, then back at Ruth. She 
did not say anything more for a while. 

Ruth tried to put another piece of potato into her skirt pocket, but 
by then the woman was watching her more closely than ever. 

“I don’t believe he is your husband,” the woman said. 

“WeU,” Ruth answered, “he is.” 

“I wouldn’t call him much of a husband to let you walk through the 
country begging food like you did just a little while ago.” 

“He’s been sick,” Ruth said quickly, turning in the chair to face the 
woman. “He was sick in bed for five weeks before we started out.” 

“Why didn’t you stay where you were, instead of making tramps 
out of yourselves? Can’t he hold a job, or don’t he want to work?” 

Ruth got up, dropping the bread in her hand. 

“Thank you for the breakfast,” she said. “I am going now.” 

“If you take my advice,” the woman said, “you’ll leave that man the 
first chance you get. If he won’t work at a job, you’ll be a fool — ” 

“He had a job, but he got sick with a kind of fever.” 

“I don’t believe you. I’d put you down for lying about him.” 

Ruth went to the door, opened it herself, and went outside. She 
turned around on the porch and looked at the woman who had given 
her something to eat. 

“If he was sick in bed, like you said,” the woman asked, following 
her past the door, “why did he get up and start tramping like this with 
nothing for you and him to eat?” 

Ruth saw Ring sitting on the bench under the tree, and she was not 
going to answer the woman, but she could not keep from saying some- 
thing. 

“The reason we started out walking like this was because my sister 

85 



ERSKINE CALDWELL 


wrote and told me that our baby had died. When my husband first got 
sick, I sent the baby to my sister’s. Now we’re going to see the grave 
where she’s buried.” 

She ran down the steps and walked across the yard as rapidly as she 
could. When she reached the corner of the house, Ring got up and fol- 
lowed her to the road. Neither of them said anything, but she could 
not keep from looking back at the house, where the woman was 
watching them through the crack in the door. 

After they had gone a hundred feet or more, Ruth unfastened her 
blouse and pulled out the pieces of bread she had carried there. Ring 
took them from her without a word. When he had eaten all there was, 
she gave him the potato. He ate it hungrily, talking to her with his 
eyes while he chewed and swallowed. 

They had walked for nearly half an hour before either of them 
spoke again. 

“She was a mean old woman,” Ruth said. “If it hadn’t been for 
the food. I’d have got up and left before I ate what she gave me.” 

Ring did not say anything for a long time. They had reached the 
bottom of the valley and were beginning to go up the grade on the 
other side before he spoke again. “Maybe if she had known where we 
were going, she might not have been so mean to you,” Ring said. 

Ruth choked back a sob. 

“How much farther is it, Ring?” 

“About thirty or forty miles.” 

“Will we get there tomorrow.^” 

He shook his head. 

“The day after?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Maybe if we get a ride, we might get there tonight?” she asked, un- 
able to hold back any longer the sobs that choked her throat and 
breast. 

“Yes,” he sjaid, “If we could get a ride, we would get there a lot 
sooner.” j 

He turned this head and glanced down the road behind them, but 
there was notBiing in sight. Then he looked down at the ground he was 
walking on, coiunting the steps he took with his right foot, and then 
his left. 


86 



MAN AND WOMAN 


ERSKINE CALDWELL was born December 17, 1903, near White 
Oak Church in Moreland, Coweta County, Georgia, south of Atlanta, 
in the hilly, eroded country he has vividly described in his best short 
stories and novels. His father was a minister, whose office as secretary 
of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Home Missions Board took 
him from church to church in the territory between Virginia and 
Florida, and between the Atlantic and the Mississippi. In one of the 
first automobiles in the South, the family traveled over a large part 
of this section. Getting arrested for frightening horses and being held 
captive by moonshiners in the mountains of Virginia are among the 
family adventures Caldwell remembers. His wanderlust was nurtured 
rather than blunted by these experiences. 

He had little formal education: a year of primary school in Vir- 
ginia, a year of grammar school in Tennessee, and a year of high 
school in Georgia. The rest of the time his mother taught him. At 
eighteen he entered Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, but 
soon left on a trip on a boat that was running guns to Central America. 
He also visited Mexico on this trip. Next, having received a scholar- 
ship from the United, Daughters of the Confederacy, he entered the 
University of Virginia, where he remained almost a year, working part 
time in a pool room for his room and board. He then worked in a 
variety store in Pennsylvania, played professional football, managed 
a lecture tour, sold building lots in Alabama, attended the University 
of Pennsylvania for a short time (he earned his expenses by being 
bodyguard to a Chinese), and finally returned for another year to the 
University of Virginia. His early experiences also included work as 
a mill hand, farm hand, stage hand, waiter, reporter, hack driver, and 
cook; he rode freight trains and was more than once arrested for 
vagrancy. 

As a cub reporter for the Atlanta Journal he found newspaper work 
not as attractive as he had thought it would be. Furthermore, although 
from early college days he had been writing stories, he found that he 
could not combine journalism and creative writing. Determined to 
write, using his experiences as the raw material of fiction, he went to 
Maine to stay until he had written a good story. During the next years 
he wrote short stories and novels; Scribnefs Magazine bought his 
story “Midsummer Passion”; and the Yale Review accepted a story 
with a New England setting, “Country Full of Swedes,” which also 
brought him the Yale Review $1000 Award for Fiction in 1933, Since 
then he has written novels, short stories, travel books, economic and 
sociological studies, and motion picture scenarios. He has also edited 
a series of books on folkways and has traveled as a correspondent in 
Mexico, Spain, Czechoslovakia, and Russia. Now, although he con- 
tinues to travel part of each year, he lives most of the time in Phoenix, 

87 



ERSKINE CALDWELL 


Arizona. His twenty-five books have sold eighteen million copies, 
and his work has been translated into twelve languages. 

Of his novels, the most popular and representative are Tobacco 
Road (1932), God’^s Little Acre (1935), and Trouble in July (1940). 
The first is best known in the dramatic version (produced 1933, pub- 
lished 1934) by Jack Kirkland; the play ran for five years on Broad- 
way, toured a large part of the country, and was banned or censored 
in thirteen cities. These novels, like much of Caldwell’s later work, 
deal with the economic, social, and sexual problems of the poor whites 
and Negroes of Georgia. Some readers and critics, shocked by the 
frankness and brutality of naturalistic* scenes, the earthiness of his 
characters, protest that Caldwell is merely interested in sensational 
eifects. He insists that he is presenting the truth as he sees it. He also 
believes that content is of greater importance than style. His later 
novels, in spite of their continued interest for many readers, have var- 
ied his earlier themes and subjects and have not increased his stature 
as a novelist. Possibly, as Henry Seidel Canby suggests, Caldwell is 
best as a writer of short stories. These have appeared since 1931, when 
American Earth was published. Among his best volumes are Kneel to 
the Rising Sun and Other Stories (1935) and Southway s (1938); 
they range from slight anecdote or folk humor to tragedy. 

Caldwell himself has commented informatively upon his short 
stories in Jackpot (1940), a collected edition. In the introductory note 
to each story he tells why he likes various ones; how he came to write 
them; what ‘‘Professor Horatio Perkins,” a narrow academic critic 
he has created, would find wrong with them as “short stories”; and 
what the author thinks of “that bloated middleman, the critic,” of life 
in general, and of story-telling in particular. There is much revealing 
comment about his methods of writing, his values, and his critical 
views. His more recent book. Call It Experience: The Years of Learn- 
ing How to Write (1951), also contains suggestive criticism and com- 
ment. 

In one of his notes he indicates that a writer must be a jack of all 
trades, must know many things about many subjects. The suggestion 
applies well to him. Although many of his best works deal with his 
native Georgia, others have settings in Maine, in other parts of New 
England, and in Russia. At his best he is in close contact with the soil, 
with life on an elemental and emotional level which has universal im- 
plications. His vigorous sense of injustice in the face of discrimination, 
lack of understanding, and oppression gives great strength to his 
stories: “Daughter,” “The People vs. Abe Lathan, Colored,” “Man and 
Woman.” His indignation, fierce but controlled, may remind some 
readers of Swift’s in “A Modest Proposal.” Canby suggests a resem- 
blance to Goya, the Spanish painter, who unflinchingly, without sen- 

88 



MAN AND WOMAN 


timentality or false emotion, painted the decay he observed about him. 
Humor is also an important element in many of Caldwell’s stories. As 
in Mark Twain, the humor suggests a tradition of oral rather than 
written story-telling, as though a story is being related to a small 
group of people. Caldwell himself has pointed out that some of his 
stories would be better told than written. 

Yet, in addition to revealing the emphases noted above, Caldwell 
can be a master of psychological insight and literary artistry. His feel- 
ing for character is best revealed in his treatment of the inarticulate 
ones, those who suffer but keep their suffering to themselves. Even 
when his chief interest is society, the individual is not lost or sub- 
merged in the group. Even when his material is economically or so- 
cially significant, Caldwell is more an artist than a propagandist. 
Professor Beach considers him “an accomplished master of the naive 
style.” Caldwell’s own comment in Jackpot is suggestive: “After hav- 
ing experienced both, wdth a small measure of success in each, I think 
I can safely say that there is nothing so dispiriting as adventure, noth- 
ing so exciting as imagination.” This supremacy of the imagination 
over fact or incident or adventure is a key to understanding Caldwell. 

Because Caldwell and Faulkner have both written largely of the 
South, readers are likely to contrast and compare them. It will be 
noted that Faulkner uses more spectacular and unusual subjects; Cald- 
well, although he occasionally overemphasizes the element of horror, 
usually gets his effects through using restraint, understatement, and 
objectivity.* Although the situation and characters often demand the 
reader’s sympathy and pity, Caldwell, the recorder or case historian, 
remains in the background, not voicing the sympathy and pity the 
reader feels. His restrained reporting often stirs the reader to power- 
ful indignation; on examination it will be found that the reader has 
supplied the indignation, again unvoiced by the author. 

“Man and Woman” first appeared in the New Yorker ^ July 10, 1937, 
Pp. 12-13. It was included in Southvoays and was an O. Henry Memo- 
rial Award story for 1938. The present text is from Jackpot. 

For additional comment on Caldwell, see Henry Seidel Canby, In- 
troduction to Stories by Erskine Caldwell (1944), reprinted as The 
Pocket Book of Erskine Caldwell Stories (1947); Joseph W. Beach, 
American Fiction, 1920-1940 (1941), pp. 219-249; Oscar Cargill, In- 
tellectual America (1941), pp. 386-396; Malcolm Cowley, “The Two 
Erskine Caldwells,” New Republic, cxi (Nov. 6, 1944), 599-600. 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Aristotle suggested that poetry tends to express the universal, 
history the particular. He meant to imply that poetry (or imaginative 

89 



ERSKINE CALDWELL 


literature in general) reveals how a person of a certain type will on 
occasion speak or act, according to the law of probability or necessity. 
Are Ring and Ruth universal types in Aristotle’s sense? Explain your 
answer. Does the title of the story help you to understand what Cald- 
well’s answer to this question would be? 

2. Why does the man “feel like a stranger in a strange country” 
part of the time? Is he a foreigner? When Caldwell points out this 
feeling of strangeness in Ring, is he being a social critic? Do you sym- 
pathize with Ring or with society at this point? Who or what, in your 
opinion, is responsible for the suffering of the two main characters? 
Have they themselves caused it, in whole or in part, according to 
Caldwell’s presentation? 

3. Why is the woman they approach suspicious of them? Is she 
protecting herself? Does she embody an animal-like reaction to stran- 
gers? Does she perhaps represent the attitude of society to the dispos- 
sessed? 

4. In your opinion, would the story have been better if there 
had been no mention of the dead child? Have you any reason to doubt 
the truthfulness and sincerity of Ring and Ruth? 

5. Do you find the tone of the story somewhat monotonous? 
If so, do you think the monotony is intentional? If not, what keeps the 
Story from being monotonous? Is life such as here described actually 
monotonous? Do you find a note of hope in the story? 

6. Is the story naturalistic?* What aspects of the naturalist’s 
world do you find represented here? 

7. In the second paragraph from the end of the story, Ring says, 
“Yes ... If we could get a ride, we would get there a lot sooner.” Is 
this remark in keeping with his character? Is the statement, almost a 
toneless repetition of his wife’s question, dramatically effective in the 
story? Would you say that Caldwell here is taking advantage of the 
resources of his characters rather than being a didactic* writer? If 
Caldwell were writing didactically, how might he handle this scene? 
Can you point to other passages which suggest Caldwell’s interest in 
character rather than in didacticism? 


90 



E LAGOON 


T H 

The white man, leaning with both 
arms over the roof of the little house in the stern of the boat, said to 
the steersman— 

‘‘We will pass the night in Arsat’s clearing. It is late.” 

The Malay only grunted, and went on looking fixedly at the river. 
The white man rested his chin on his crossed arms and gazed at the 
wake of the boat. At the end of the straight avenue of forests cut by 
the intense glitter of the river, the sun appeared unclouded and daz- 
zling, poised low over the water that shone smoothly like a band of 
metal. The forests, somber and dull, stood motionless and silent on 
each side of the broad stream. At the foot of big, towering trees, 
trunkiess nipa palms rose from the mud of the bank, in bunches of 
leaves enormous and heavy, that hung unstirring over the brown 
swirl of eddies. In the stillness of the air every tree, every leaf, every 
bough, every tendril of creeper and every petal of minute blossoms 
seemed to have been bewitched into an immobility perfect and final. 
Nothing moved on the river but the eight paddles that rose flashing 
regularly, dipped together with a single splash; while the steersman 
swept right and left with a periodic and sudden flourish of his blade 
describing a glinting semicircle above his head. The churned-up wa- 
ter frothed alongside with a confused murmur. And the white man’s 
canoe, advancing upstream in the short-lived disturbance of its own 

“The Lagoon” is reprinted from the Standard Uniform Edition of the 
Works of Joseph Conrad, copyright, 1939, by permission of the publishers, 
J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., London. 


91 



JOSEPH CONRAD 


making, seemed to enter the portals of a land from which the very 
memory of motion had forever departed. 

The white man, turning his back upon the setting sun, looked along 
the empty and broad expanse of the sea-reach. For the last three miles 
of its course the wandering, hesitating river, as if enticed irresistibly 
by the freedom of an open horizon, flows straight into the sea, flows 
straight to the east — to the east that harbors both light and darkness. 
Astern of the boat the repeated call of some bird, a cry discordant and 
feeble, skipped along over the smooth water and lost itself, before it 
could reach the other shore, in the breathless silence of the world. 

The steersman dug his paddle into the stream, and held hard with 
stiffened arms, his body thrown forward. The water gurgled aloud; 
and suddenly the long straight reach seemed to pivot on its center, the 
forests swung in a semicircle, and the slanting beams of sunset touched 
the broadside of the canoe with a fiery glow, throwing the slender and 
distorted shadows of its crew upon the streaked glitter of the river. 
The white man turned to look ahead. The course of the boat had been 
altered at right-angles to the stream, and the carved dragon-head of 
its prow was pointing now at a gap in the fringing bushes of the bank. 
It glided through, brushing the overhanging twigs, and disappeared 
from the river like some slim and amphibious creature leaving the wa- 
ter for its lair in the forests. 

The narrow creek was like a ditch: tortuous, fabulously deep; filled 
with gloom under the thin strip of pure and shining blue of the heaven. 
Immense trees soared up, invisible behind the festooned draperies of 
creepers. Here and there, near the glistening blackness of the water, a 
twisted root of some tall tree showed amongst the tracery of small 
ferns, black and dull, writhing and motionless, like an arrested snake. 
The short words of the paddlers reverberated loudly between the 
thick and somber walls of vegetation. Darkness oozed out from be- 
tween the trees, through the tangled maze of the creepers, from be- 
hind the great fantastic and unstirring leaves; the darkness, mysterious 
and invincible; the darkness scented and poisonous of impenetrable 
forests. 

The men poled in the shoaling water. The creek broadened, opening 
out into a wide sweep of a stagnant lagoon. The forests receded from 
the marshy bank, leaving a level strip of bright green, reedy grass to 

n 



THE LAGOON 


frame the rejflected blueness of the sky. A fleecy pink cloud drifted 
high above, trailing the delicate coloring of its image under the float- 
ing leaves and the silvery blossoms of the lotus. A little house, perched 
on high piles, appeared black in the distance Near it, two tail nibong 
palms, that seemed to have come out of the forests in the background, 
leaned slightly over the ragged roof, with a suggestion of sad tender- 
ness and care in the droop of their leafy and soaring heads. 

The steersman, pointing with his paddle, said, ‘Arsat is there. I see 
his canoe fast between the piles.” 

The polers ran along the sides of the boat glancing over their shoul- 
ders at the end of the day’s journey. They would have preferred to 
spend the night somewhere else than on this lagoon of weird aspect 
and ghostly reputation. Moreover, they disliked Arsat, first as a stran- 
ger, and also because he who repairs a ruined house, and dwells in it, 
proclaims that he is not afraid to live amongst the spirits that haunt 
the places abandoned by mankind. Such a man can disturb the course 
of fate by glances or words; while his familiar ghosts are not easy to 
propitiate by casual wayfarers upon whom they long to wreak the mal- 
ice of their human master. White men care not for such things, being 
unbelievers and in league with the Father of Evil, who leads them un- 
harmed through the invisible dangers of this world. To the warnings 
of the righteous they oppose an oflensive pretense of disbelief. What 
is there to be done? 

So they thought, throwing their weight on the end of their long 
poles. The big canoe glided on swiftly, noiselessly, and smoothly, to- 
wards Arsat’s clearing, till, in a great rattling of poles thrown down, 
and the loud murmurs of “Allah be praised!” it came with a gentle 
knock against the crooked piles below the house. 

The boatmen with uplifted faces shouted discordantly, “Arsat! O 
Arsat!” Nobody came. The white man began to climb the rude ladder 
giving access to the bamboo platform before the house. The juragan 
of the boat said sulkily, “We will cook in the sampan, and sleep on the 
water.” 

“Pass my blankets and the basket,” said the white man, curtly. 

He knelt on the edge of the platform to receive the bundle. Then 
the boat shoved off, and the white man, standing up, confronted Arsat, 
who had come out through the low door of his hut. He was a man 


93 



JOSEPH CONRAD 


young, powerful, with broad chest and muscular arms. He had nothing 
on but his sarong. His head was bare. His big, soft eyes stared eagerly 
at the white man, but his voice and demeanor were composed as he 
asked, without any words of greeting — 

‘‘Have you medicine, Tuan?” 

“No,” said the visitor in a startled tone. “No. Why? Is there sickness 
in the house?” 

“Enter and see,” replied Arsat, in the same calm manner, and turning 
short round, passed again through the small doorway. The white man, 
dropping his bundles, followed. 

In the dim light of the dwelling he made out on a couch of bamboos 
a woman stretched on her back under a broad sheet of red cotton 
cloth. She lay still, as if dead; but her big eyes, wide open, glittered 
in the gloom, staring upwards at the slender rafters, motionless and 
unseeing. She was in a high fever, and evidently unconscious. Her 
cheeks were sunk slightly, her lips were partly open, and on the young 
face there was the ominous and fixed expression — ^the absorbed, con- 
templating expression of the unconscious who are going to die. The 
two men stood looking down at her in silence. 

“Has she been long ill?” asked the traveler. 

“I have not slept for five nights,” answered the Malay, in a deliberate 
tone. “At first she heard voices calling her from the water and 
struggled against me who held her. But since the sun of today rose she 
hears nothing — ^she hears not me. She sees nothing. She sees not me — 
me!” 

He remained silent for a minute, then asked softly — 

“Tuan, will she die?” 

“I fear so,” said the white man, sorrowfully. He had known Arsat 
years ago, in a far country in times of trouble and danger, when no 
friendship is to be despised. And since his Malay friend had come un- 
expectedly to dwell in the hut on the lagoon with a strange woman, 
he had slept many times there, in his Journeys up and down the river. 
He liked the man w^ho knew how to keep faith in council and how to 
fight without fear by the side of his white friend. He liked him — ^not 
so much perhaps as a man likes his favorite dog — ^but still he liked him 
well enough to help and ask no questions, to think sometimes vaguely 
and hazily in the midst of his own pursuits, about the lonely man and 

94 



THE LAGOON 


the long-haired woman with audacious face and triumphant eyes, who 
lived together hidden by the forests — alone and feared. 

The white man came out of the hut in time to see the enormous con- 
flagration of sunset put out by the swift and stealthy shadows that, 
rising like a black and impalpable vapor above the tree-tops, spread 
over the heaven, extinguishing the crimson glow of floating clouds and 
the red brilliance of departing daylight. In a few moments all the stars 
came out above the intense blackness of the earth and the great lagoon 
gleaming suddenly with reflected lights resembled an oval patch 
of night sky flung down into the hopeless and abysmal night of the 
wilderness. The white man had some supper out of the basket, then 
collecting a few sticks that lay about the platform, made up a small 
fire, not for warmth, but for the sake of the smoke, which would keep 
off the mosquitos. He wrapped himself in the blankets and sat with his 
back against the reed wall of the house, smoking thoughtfully. 

Arsat came through the doorway, with noiseless steps and squatted 
down by the fire. The white man moved his outstretched legs a little. 

“She breathes,” said Arsat in a low voice, anticipating the expected 
question. “She breathes and burns as if with a great fire. She speaks not; 
she hears not — and burns!” 

He paused for a moment, then asked in a quiet, incurious tone — 

“Tuan . • . will she die?” 

The white man moved his shoulders uneasily and muttered in a hesi- 
tating manner — 

“If such is her fate.” 

“No, Tuan,” said Arsat, calmly. “If such is my fate. I hear, I see, I 
wait. I remember . . . Tuan, do you remember the old days? Do you 
remember my brother?” 

“Yes,” said the white man. The Malay rose suddenly and went in. 
The other, sitting still outside, could hear the voice in the hut. Arsat 
said: “Hear me! Speak!” His words were succeeded by a complete si- 
lence, “O Diamelen!” he cried, suddenly. After that cry there was a 
deep sigh. Arsat came out and sank down again in his old place. 

They sat in silence before the fire. There was no sound within the 
house, there was no sound near them; but far away on the lagoon they 
could hear the voices of the boatmen ringing fitful and distinct on the 
calm water. The fire in the bows of the sampan shone faintly in the 

95 



JOSEPH CONRAD 


distance with a hazy red glow. Then it died out. The voices ceased. 
The land and the water slept invisible, unstirring and mute. It was as 
though there had been nothing left in the world but the glitter of stars 
streaming, ceaseless and vain, through the black stillness of the night. 

The white man gazed straight before him into the darkness with 
wide-open eyes. The fear and fascination, the inspiration and the won- 
der of death — of death near, unavoidable, and unseen, soothed the un- 
rest of his race and stirred the most indistinct, the most intimate of his 
thoughts. The ever-ready suspicion of evil, the gnawing suspicion that 
lurks in our hearts, flowed out into the stillness round him — into the 
stillness profound and dumb, and made it appear untrustworthy and 
infamous, like the placid and impenetrable mask of ar^ unjustifiable vio- 
lence. In that fleeting and powerful disturbance of his being the earth 
enfolded in the starlight peace became a shadowy country of inhuman 
strife, a battle-field of phantoms terrible and charming, august or igno- 
ble, struggling ardently for the possession of our helpless hearts. An 
unquiet and mysterious country of inextinguishable desires and fears. 

A plaintive murmur rose in the night; a murmur saddening and 
startling, as if the great solitudes of surrounding woods had tried to 
whisper into his ear the wisdom of their immense and lofty indiffer- 
ence. Sounds hesitating and vague floated in the air round him, shaped 
themselves slowly into words; and at last flowed on gently in a mur- 
muring stream of soft and monotonous sentences. He stirred like a man 
waking up and changed his position slightly. Arsat, motionless 
and shadowy, sitting with bowed head under the stars, was speaking 
in a low and dreamy tone — 

. . for where can we lay down the heaviness of our trouble but 
in a friend’s heart? A man must speak of war and of love. You, Tuan, 
know what war is, and you have seen me in time of danger seek death 
as other men seek life! A writing may be lost; a lie may be written; but 
what the eye has seen is truth and remains in the mind!” 

“I remember,” said the white man, quietly. Arsat went on with 
mournful composure — 

‘Therefore I shall speak to you of love. Speak in the night. Speak 
before both night and love are gone — and the eye of day looks upon 
my sorrow and my shame; upon my blackened face; upon my 
burnt-up heart.” 


96 



THE LAGOON 


A sigh, short and faint, marked an almost imperceptible pause, and 
then his words flowed on, without a stir, without a gesture. 

‘‘After the time of trouble and war was over and you went away 
from my country in the pursuit of your desires, which we, men of the 
islands, cannot understand, I and my brother became again, as we had 
been before, the swordbearers of the Ruler. You know we were men 
of family, belonging to a ruling race, and more fit than any to carry 
on our right shoulder the emblem of power. And in the time of pros- 
perity Si Dendring showed us favor, as we, in time of sorrow, 
had showed to him the faithfulness of our courage. It was a time of 
peace. A time of deer-hunts and cock-fights; of idle talks and foolish 
squabbles between men whose bellies are full and weapons are rusty. 
But the sower watched the young rice-shoots grow up without fear, 
and the traders came and went, departed lean and returned fat into the 
river of peace. They brought news, too. Brought lies and truth mixed 
together, so that no man knew when to rejoice and when to be sorry. 
We heard from them about you also. They had seen you here and had 
seen you there. And I was glad to hear, for I remembered the stirring 
times, and I always remembered you, Tuan, till the time came when 
my eyes could see nothing in the past, because they had looked upon 
the one who is dying there — in the house,” 

He stopped to exclaim in an intense whisper, “O Mara bahia! O Ca- 
lamity!” then went on speaking a little louder: 

“There’s no worse enemy and no better friend than a brother, Tuan, 
for one brother knows another, and in perfect knowledge is strength 
for good or evil. I loved my brother. I went to him and told him that 
I could see nothing but one face, hear nothing but one voice. He told 
me: ‘Open your heart so that she can see what is in it — and wait. Pa- 
tience is wisdom. Inchi Midah may die or our Ruler may throw off his 
fear of a woman!’ ... I waited! ... You remember the lady with 
the veiled face, Tuan, and the fear of our Ruler before her cunning and 
temper. And if she wanted her servant, what could I do? But I fed the 
hunger of my heart on short glances and stealthy words. I loitered on 
the path to the bath-houses in the daytime, and when the sun 
had fallen behind the forest I crept along the jasmine hedges of the 
women’s courtyard. Unseeing, we spoke to one another through the 
scent of flowers, through the veil of leaves, through the blades of long 

VI 



JOSEPH CONRAD 


grass that stood still before our lips; so great was our prudence, so faint 
was the murmur of our great longing. The time passed swiftly . . . 
and there were whispers amongst women — and our enemies watched 
—my brother was gloomy, and I began to think of killing and of a 
fierce death. . . . We are of a people who take what they want — ^like 
you whites. There is a time when a man should forget loyalty and re- 
spect. Might and authority are given to rulers, but to all men is given 
love and strength and courage. My brother said, ‘You shall take her 
from their midst. We are two who are like one.’ And I answered, ‘Let 
it be soon, for I find no warmth in sunlight that does not shine upon 
her.’ Our time came when the Ruler and all the great people went to 
the mouth of the river to fish by torchlight. There were hundreds of 
boats, and on the white sand, between the water and the forests, 
dwellings of leaves were built for the households of the Rajahs. The 
smoke of cooking-fires was like a blue mist of the evening, and many 
voices rang in it joyfully. While they were making the boats ready to 
beat up the fish, my brother came to me and said, ‘To-night!’ I looked 
to my weapons, and when the time came our canoe took its place in 
the circle of boats carrying the torches. The lights blazed on the wa- 
ter, but behind the boats there was darkness. When the shouting began 
and the excitement made them like mad we dropped out. The water 
swallowed our fire, and we floated back to the shore that was dark 
with only here and there the glimmer of embers. We could hear the 
talk of slave-girls amongst the sheds. Then we found a place deserted 
and silent. We waited there. She came. She came running along the 
shore, rapid and leaving no trace, like a leaf driven by the wind into 
the sea. My brother said gloomily, ‘Go and take her; carry her into 
our boat.’ I lifted her in my arms. She panted. Her heart was beating 
against my breast. I said, ‘I take you from those people. You came to 
the cry of my heart, but my arms take you into my boat against the 
• will of the great!’ ‘It is right,’ said my brother. ‘We are men who take 
what we want and can hold it against many. We should have taken 
her in daylight.’ I said, ‘Let us be off’; for since she was in my boat I 
began to think of our Ruler’s many men. ‘Yes. Let us be ofiF,’ said my 
brother. ‘We are cast out and this boat is our country now — ^and the 
sea is our refuge.’ He lingered with his foot on the shore, and I en- 
treated him to hasten, for I remembered the strokes of her heart 


fS 



THE LAGOON 


against my breast and thought that two men cannot withstand a hun- 
dred. We left, paddling downstream close to the bank; and as we 
passed by the creek where they were fishing, the great shouting had 
ceased, but the murmur of voices was loud like the humming of in- 
sects flying at noonday. The boats floated, clustered together, in the 
red light of torches, under a black roof of smoke; and men talked 
of their sport. Men that boasted, and praised, and jeered — ^men that 
would have been our friends in the morning, but on that night were 
already our enemies. We paddled swiftly past. We had no more friends 
in the country of our birth. She sat in the middle of the canoe with 
covered face; silent as she is now; unseeing as she is now — and I had 
no regret at what I was leaving because I could hear her breathing 
close to me — as I can hear her now.” 

He paused, listened with his ear turned to the doorway, then shook 
his head and went on: 

“My brother wanted to shout the cry of challenge — one cry only 
— ^to let the people know we were freeborn robbers who trusted 
our arms and the great sea. And again I begged him in the name of our 
love to be silent. Could I not hear her breathing close to me? I knew 
the pursuit would com^ quick enough. My brother loved me. He 
dipped his paddle without a splash. He only said, ‘There is a half a man 
in you now — ^the other half is in that woman. I can wait. When you are 
a whole man again, you will come back with me here to shout defi- 
ance. We are sons of the same mother.’ I made no answer. All my 
strength and all my spirit were in my hands that held the paddle — ^for 
I longed to be with her in a safe place beyond the reach of men’s anger 
and of women’s spite. My love was so great, that I thought it could 
guide me to a country where death was unknown, if I could only es- 
cape from Inchi Midah’s fury and from our Ruler’s sword. We pad- 
died with haste, breathing through our teeth. The blades bit deep into 
the smooth water. We passed out of the river; we flew in clear 
channels amongst the shallows. We skirted the black coast; we skirted 
the sand beaches where the sea speaks in whispers to the land; and the 
gleam of white sand flashed back past our boat, so swiftly she ran 
upon the tvater. We spoke not. Only once I said, ‘Sleep, Diamelen, for 
soon you may want all your strength.’ I heard the sweetness of her 
voice, but I never turned my head. The sun rose and still we went on. 


99 



JOSEPH CONRAD 


Water fell from my face like rain from a cloud. We flew in the light 
and heat. I never looked back, but I knew that my brother’s eyes, be- 
hind me, were looking steadily ahead, for the boat went as straight 
as a bushman’s dart, when it leaves the end of the sumpitan. There 
was no better paddler, no better steersman than my brother. Many 
times, together, we had won races in that canoe. But we never had 
put out our strength as we did then — ^then, when for the last time we 
paddled together! There was no braver or stronger man in our coun- 
try than my brother. I could not spare the strength to turn my head 
and look at him, but every moment I heard the hiss of his breath get- 
ting louder behind me. Still he did not speak. The sun was high. The 
heat clung to my back like a flame of fire. My ribs were ready to 
burst, but I could no longer get enough air into my chest. And then I 
felt I must cry out with my last breath, ‘Let us rest!’ . . . ‘Good!’ 
he answered; and his voice was firm. He was strong. He was brave. 
He knew not fear and no fatigue . . . My brother!” 

A murmur powerful and gentle, a murmur vast and faint; the mur- 
mur of trembling leaves, of stirring boughs, ran through the tangled 
depths of the forests, ran over the starry smoothness of the lagoon, and 
the water between the piles lapped the slimy timber once with a sud- 
den splash. A breath of warm air touched the two men’s faces and 
passed on with a mournful sound — a breath loud and short like an un- 
easy sigh of the dreaming earth. 

Arsat went on in an even, low voice. 

“We ran our canoe on the white beach of a little bay close to a long 
tongue of land that seemed to bar our road; a long wooded cape going 
far into the sea. My brother knew that place. Beyond the cape a river 
has its entrance, and through the jungle of that land there is a narrow 
path. We made a fire and cooked rice. Then we lay down to sleep on 
the soft sand in the shade of our canoe, while she watched. No sooner 
had I closed my eyes than I heard her cry of alarm. We leaped up. The 
sun was halfway down the sky already, and coming in sight in the 
opening of the bay we saw a prau manned by many paddlers. We 
knew it at once; it was one of our Rajah’s praus. They were watching 
the shore, and saw us. They beat the gong, and turned the head of the 
prau into the bay. I felt my heart become weak within my breast. 
Diamelen sat on the sand and covered her face. There was no escape 

100 



THE LAGOON 


by sea. My brother laughed. He had the gun you had given him, 
Tuan, before you went away, but there was only a handful of powder. 
He spoke to me quickly: ‘Run with her along the path. I shall keep 
them back, for they have no firearms, and landing in the face of a man 
with a gun is certain death for some. Run with her. On the other side 
of that wood there is a fisherman’s house — and a canoe. When I have 
fired all the shots I will follow. I am a great runner, and before they 
can come up we shall be gone. I will hold out as long as I can, for she 
is but a woman — ^that can neither run nor fight, but she has your 
heart in her weak hands.’ He dropped behind the canoe. The prau was 
coming. She and I ran, and as we rushed along the path I heard shots. 
My brother fired — once — ^twice — and the booming of the gong ceased. 
There was silence behind us. That neck of land is narrow. Before I 
heard my brother fire the third shot I saw the shelving shore, and I 
saw the water again; the mouth of a broad river. We crossed a grassy 
glade. We ran down to the water. I saw a low hut above the black 
mud, and a small canoe hauled up. I heard another shot behind me. I 
thought, ‘That is his last charge.’ We rushed down to the canoe; a 
man came running from the hut, but I leaped on him, and we rolled 
together in the mud. Then I got up, and he lay still at my feet. I 
don’t know whether I had killed him or not. I and Diamelen pushed 
the canoe afloat. I heard yells behind me, and I saw my brother run 
across the glade. Many men were bounding after him, I took her in 
my arms and threw her into the boat, then leaped in myself. When I 
looked back I saw ‘that my brother had fallen. He fell and was up 
again, but the men were closing round him. He shouted, ‘I am com- 
ing!’ The men were close to him,. I looked. Many men. Then I looked 
at her. Tuan, I pushed the canoe! I pushed it into deep water. She was 
kneeling forward looking at me, and I said, ‘Take yoUr paddle,’ while 
I struck the water with mine. Tuan, I heard him cry. I heard him cry 
my name twice; and I heard voices shouting, ‘Kill! Strike!’ I never 
turned back. I heard him calling my name again with a great shriek, 
as when life is going out together with the voice — and I never turned 
my head. My own name! . . . My brother! Three times he called — 
but I was not afraid of life. Was she not there in that canoe? And could 
I not with her find a country where death is forgotten — ^where death 
is unknown!” 


101 



JOSEPH CONRAD 


The white man sat up. Arsat rose and stood, an indistinct and silent 
figure above the dying embers of the fire. Over the lagoon a mist drift- 
ing and low had crept, erasing slowly the glittering images of the stars. 
And now a great expanse of white vapor covered the land: it flowed 
cold and gray in the darkness, eddied in noiseless whirls round the 
tree-trunks and about the platform of the house, which seemed to 
float upon a restless and impalpable illusion of a sea. Only far away the 
tops of the trees stood outlined on the twinkle of heaven, like a som- 
ber and forbidding shore — a coast deceptive, pitiless and black. 

Arsat’s voice vibrated loudly in the profound peace. 

“I had her there I I had her! To get her I would have faced all man- 
kind. But I had her — and — ” 

His words went out ringing into the empty distances. He paused, 
and seemed to listen to them dying away very far — beyond help and 
beyond recall. Then he said quietly — 

‘‘Tuan, I loved my brother.” 

A breath of wind made him shiver. High above his head, high above 
the silent sea of mist the drooping leaves of the palms rattled to- 
gether with a mournful and expiring sound. The white man stretched 
his legs. His chin rested on his chest, and he murmured sadly without 
lifting his head — 

“We all love our brothers.” 

Arsat burst out with an intense whispering violence — 

“What did I care who died? I wanted peace in my own heart.” 

He seemed to hear a stir in the house — Glistened — ^then stepped in 
noiselessly. The white man stood up. A breeze was coming in fitful 
puffs. The stars shone paler as if they had retreated into the frozen 
depths of immense space. After a chill gust of wind there were a few 
seconds of perfect calm and absolute silence. Then from behind the 
black and wavy line of the forests a column of golden light shot up 
into the heavens and spread over the semicircle of the eastern horizon. 
The sun had risen. The mist lifted, broke into drifting patches, van- 
ished into thin flying wreaths; and the unveiled lagoon lay, polished 
and black, in the heavy shadows at the foot of the wall of trees. A 
white eagle rose over it with a slanting and ponderous flight, reached 
the clear sunshine and appeared dazzlingly brilliant for a moment, then 
soaring higher, became a dark and motionless speck before it vanished 

102 



THE LAGOON 


into the blue as if it had left the earth forever. The white man, stand- 
ing gazing upwards before the doorway, heard in the hut a confused 
and broken murmur of distracted words ending with a loud groan. 
Suddenly Arsat stumbled out with outstretched hands, shivered, and 
stood still for some time with fixed eyes. Then he said — 

“She burns no more.” 

Before his face the sun showed its edge above the tree-tops rising 
steadily. The breeze freshened; a great brilliance burst upon the la- 
goon, sparkled on the rippling water. The forests came out of the clear 
shadows of the morning, became distinct, as if they had rushed 
nearer — ^to stop short in a great stir of leaves, of nodding boughs, of 
swaying branches. In the merciless sunshine the whisper of unconscious 
life grew louder, speaking in an incomprehensible voice round the 
dumb darkness of that human sorrow. Arsat’s eyes wandered slowly, 
then stared at the rising sun. 

“I can see nothing,” he said half aloud to himself. 

“There is nothing,” said the white man, moving to the edge of the 
platform and waving his hand to his boat. A shout came faintly over 
the lagoon and the sampan began to glide towards the abode of the 
friend of ghosts. 

“If you want to come with me, I will wait all the morning,” said the 
white man, looking away upon the water. 

“No, Tuan,” said Arsat, softly. “I shall not eat or sleep in this house, 
but I must first see my road. Now I can see nothing — ^see nothing! 
There is no light and no peace in the world; but there is death — death 
for many. We are sons of the same mother — and I left him in the midst 
of enemies; but I am going back now.” 

He drew a long breath and went on in a dreamy tone: 

“In a little while I shall see clear enough to strike — ^to strike. But she 
has died, and . . . now . . . darkness.” 

He flung his arms wide open, let them fall along his body, then 
stood still with unmoved face and stony eyes, staring at the sun. The 
white man got down into his canoe. The polers ran smartly along the 
sides of the boat, looking over their shoulders at the beginning of a 
weary journey. High in the stern, his head muffled up in white rags, 
the juragan sat moody, letting his paddle trail in the water. The white 
man, leaning with both arms over the grass roof of the little cabin, 


103 



JOSEPH CONRAD 


looked back at the shining ripple of the boat’s wake. Before the sampan 
passed out of the lagoon into the creek he lifted his eyes. Arsat had not 
moved. He stood lonely in the searching sunshine; and he looked be- 
yond the great light of a cloudless day into the darkness of a world 
of illusions. 

JOSEPH CONRAD Joseph Theodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski, 
who wrote in English under the name of Joseph Conrad, was born in 
the Polish Ukraine on December 3, 1857. His father, an ardent patriot, 
was exiled by the Russian government in 1862 for helping organize a 
Polish nationalist movement. His wife was allowed to accompany 
him into exile, and they took with them their only child. In 1865 Con- 
rad’s mother died, and in 1869 his father. Shortly after his mother’s 
death Conrad had been sent to live with his maternal relatives, the 
Bobrowskis, who fortunately were rather wealthy; and at the death 
of his father he became entirely dependent upon them. His father’s 
and his mother’s families were of different temperaments: the former 
imaginative, artistic, literary, and impulsive; the latter matter-of-fact 
and conservative. With dismay his Uncle Thaddeus Bobrowski learned 
in 1872 that Conrad, an inlander who had never even seen the sea, 
wished to become a sailor. It was, Bobrowski thought, the wild Kor- 
zeniowski blood, and he tried to persuade his nephew to be more rea- 
sonable. He failed, however, and in 1874 Conrad entered the French 
merchant marine. The young man made two voyages to the West 
Indies, engaged in some illegal gun-running for the Spanish royalists, 
and carried on a love affair which involved him in a duel. In 1878 he 
landed in Lowestoft, England, ignorant of the English language, and 
joined the British merchant service. He learned the language quickly 
(though all his life he spoke English with a foreign accent), and for 
the next eleven years sailed under the British flag, much of the time 
in the Far East. He rose steadily in his profession. In 1886, a few 
months after he had become a naturalized British citizen, he passed his 
last marine examinations and qualified as a captain. In 1890 he was sec- 
ond in command and then commander of a river steamer on the 
Congo. While in equatorial Africa he contracted a disease which un- 
dermined his health permanently and made it necessary for him to 
give up the sea. He made only two more long voyages as a ship’s 
officer. 

Faced with the necessity of shaping a new life for himself, Conrad 
turned to writing. As has been seen, the Korzeniowskis had a reputa- 
tion for being literary; and Conrad himself seems always to have felt 
a need to express himself in writing. As early as 1885 he had begun a 

104 



THE LAGOON 


storv, “The Black Mate,” in English, to submit in competition for a 
prize. He was unsuccessful, but the fact that a man who had known 
no English seven years before should now attempt to use that lan- 
guage as a serious literary medium was most remarkable. In 1889 he 
began to spend leisure hours writing a novel, Almayefs Folly, He fin- 
ished it in 1894, and it was accepted for publication. Thus began one 
of the most astonishing careers in the history of English literature. He 
married in 1896 and settled down in southern England to write. He 
pursued his new vocation with great energy until he died, on August 
3, 1924. 

Miss M. C. Bradbrook has divided Conrad’s literary life into three 
periods. In the first he produced principally sea stories laid in the Far 
East. To this period belong the novels Almayer^s Folly (1895), An 
Outcast of the Islands (1896), The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897), 
and Lord Jim (1900); and the volumes of short stories Tales of Un- 
rest (1898), Youth (1902), and Typhoon (1903). He was indebted to 
his own wandering, adventurous life for many of the characters and 
much of the action of these books. In his second period he wrote with 
a heightened sense of tragedy, almost of bitterness. His confidence in 
man appeared to decline. At this time he produced the novels Nos- 
tromo (1904), probably his masterpiece; The Secret Agent (1907); 
Under Western Eyes (1911); Chance (1913); and Victory (1915); and 
the short story collections A Set of Six (1908), Twixt Land and Sea 
(1912), and Within the Tides (1915). The works of Conrad’s last pe- 
riod are generally considered inferior to those of the first two. He had 
perhaps worked too hard, written himself out. His subjects are taken 
from history or from the recollections of his youth. To this time be- 
long the novels The Shadow Line (1917), The Arrow of Gold (1919), 
The Rescue (1920), The Rover (1923), the unfinished Suspense 
(1925), and the short stories of Tales of Hearsay (1925).t The works 
of all three periods are remarkable for Conrad’s treatment of melo- 
dramatic adventure with reflective insight. The combination is most 
unusual. The florid action is convincing and has human significance. 

Conrad expressed his artistic creed best in his Preface to The Nigger 
of the Narcissus. There he says, “My task which I am trying to achieve 
is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you 
feel — ^it is, before all, to make you But what did he want to make 

one see? The physical elements of a scene in a story? These, by all 
means, but not these alone. As he also says, the writer of fiction must 
color everything he presents; he bathes it in the light of his own tem- 


tWe have omitted from this list the non-fiction and the collaborations 
with Ford Madox Ford. 


105 



JOSEPH CONRAD 


perament. In other words, he interprets. And it is just as important for 
the reader to be aware of and to understand this interpretation as to 
see imaginatively the scene and action of a story. 

What, in general, was Conrad’s interpretation of life, which in part 
determined his choice and use of material? Albert Guerard, Jr., has 
explained. Man is above all an egoist. His egoism may express itself in 
activity. It sometimes leads him to grasp openly at the power to grat- 
ify his desires. It can also disguise itself subtly and appear as benevo- 
lence or even self-sacrifice, for the surrender of one’s desires may 
sometimes be more pleasant than their frank indulgence. Side by side, 
however, with a love of action to achieve some kind of gratification 
there exists within the ego a love of peace or rest. This expresses itself 
openly in indolence or subtly in a betrayal of ideals. What can man 
oppose to these usually baleful tendencies of his own nature? “Only,” 
writes Guerard, “the barrier of semi-military ethics; courage, order, 
tradition, and unquestioned discipline; and, as a last resort, the stoic’s 
human awareness of his own phght.” Conrad’s tragedies are those of 
men mistaking their own self-gratification for benevolence, betraying 
ideals which they cannot surrender, or accepting compromises whose 
nature they never clarify. Duty is the sublimest word in his language. 

This is an outline of Conrad’s notions concerning human nature, 
partly inferred from his treatment of his characters. It must be added 
that he never fitted his characters so obviously or snugly into this or 
any scheme that they appear mechanical. He never tried to make 
them completely consistent, because complete consistency is not a 
quality of living people. He was always conscious of a certain ultimate, 
impenetrable mystery about human beings which made complete in- 
terpretation of them as individuals impossible. 

Conrad did not merely learn to write English; he became one of the 
master stylists of his time. His style is opulent and, particularly in the 
early books, uninhibited. His lavish use of adjectives and figures of 
speech lends to his work, especially the descriptive passages, a peculiar 
brilliance and poetic charm. He lacks the restraint in expressing aes- 
thetic impressions and moral values which has come to be associated 
with English literature. Someone has suggested that the unusual rich- 
ness of his style may be due in part to the fact that he wrote English as 
a foreigner and did not quite sense the usual reactions of natives to a 
vocabulary such as he used. It is almost too lush, its provocation to 
the reader almost too unashamed. It is the frank medium for the ex- 
pression of heroic ideals. Used other than with complete sincerity, it 
would have been sentimental* Perhaps no Englishman could have 
mastered it. 

“The Lagoon” was Conrad’s second short story. It is taken from 
Tales of Unrest. 

106 



THE LAGOON 


An introduction to Conrad as a man is contained in a book by his 
wife, Jessie Conrad, Joseph Conrad as I Knew Him (1926). Good 
critical studies are M. C. Bradbrook, Joseph Conrad, Poland^ s English 
Genius (1941); and Richard Curie, Joseph Conrad: A Study (1914). 
The standard life is G. Jean-Aubry, Joseph Conrad, Life and Letters 
(two volumes, 1927). Gustav Morf has written a psychological study, 
The Polish Heritage of Joseph Conrad (no date). Other good cri- 
tiques are: Edward Crankshaw, Joseph Conrad: Some Aspects of the 
Art of the Novel (1936); John D. Gordan, Joseph Conrad: The Mak- 
ing of a Novelist (1940); Albert Guerard, Jr., Joseph Conrad (1947); 
and Walter F. Wright, Romance and Tragedy in Joseph Conrad 
(1949). 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. This Story is laid in Malaya. To what extent does this fact 
add to its interest? With appropriate changes of social custom, could 
the author have located the action in America? In what respects is 
Arsat a Malay, and in what respects simply a human being? Why do 
you sympathize with Arsat? 

2. Conrad maintains that man’s ego subjects him to various dan- 
gers. Into which of these has Arsat fallen? In other words, what is his 
real tragedy? To what extent do you think that Conrad might regard 
him as virtuous? 

3. Notice the style of the descriptive passages. Are they rich in 
imagery? * Do the mental images which he evokes help set the emo- 
tional tone of the story? Contrast the style of Arsat’s speeches with 
that of the rest of the story. Is it in general simpler? Are the sentences 
shorter? Does the style of Arsat’s speeches contribute to your un- 
derstanding of his character? Explain. 

4. Apply to the story step by step the definition of “romanti- 
cism” given in this book. In your opinion would the story be romantic 
if the scene were Chicago? Does the fact that this is a love story 
have anything to do with your calling it romantic? Weigh your answer 
carefully. Can you think of any advantages which the romantic writer, 
as you understand him, may enjoy over the naturalist?* For instance, 
is the romanticist’s material likely to be more interesting to many peo- 
ple? If so, why? Is he more likely to present effectively the spiritual 
qualities of man? Explain. Do you think that he enjoys more freedom 
from possibly slavish dependence upon everyday facts of sense ex- 
perience? Discuss. 


107 




THE MISSION OF JANE 

Lethbury, surveying his wife across the dinner 
table, found his transient glance arrested by an indefinable change in 
her appearance. 

“How smart you look! Is that a new gown?” he asked. 

Her answering look seemed to deprecate his charging her with the 
extravagance of wasting a new gown on him, and he now^ perceived 
that the change lay deeper than any accident of dress. At the same 
time, he noticed that she betrayed her consciousness of it by a delicate, 
almost frightened blush. It was one of the compensations of Mrs. Leth- 
bury’s protracted childishness that she still blushed as prettily as at 
eighteen. Her body had been privileged not to outstrip her mind, and 
the two, as it seemed to Lethbury, were destined to travel together 
through an eternity of girlishness. 

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said. 

Since she never did, he always wondered at her bringing this out 
as a fresh grievance against him; but his wonder was unresentful, and 
he said good-humouredly: “You sparkle so that I thought you had 
on your diamonds.” 

She sighed and blushed again. 

“It must be,” he continued, “that you’ve been to a dressmaker’s 
opening. You’re absolutely brimming with illicit enjoyment.” 


Reprinted from The Descent of Mm & Other Stories by Edith Wharton; 
copyright, 1904, by Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932, by Edith Wharton; used 
by permission of the publishers. 

108 


THE MISSION OF JANE 


She stared again, this time at the adjective. His adjectives always 
embarrassed her: their unintelligibleness savoured of impropriety. 

‘‘In short,” he summed up, '‘youVe been doing something that 
you’re thoroughly ashamed of.” 

To his surprise she retorted: “I don’t see why I should be ashamed 
of it!” 

Lethbury leaned back with a smile of enjoyment. When there was 
nothing better going he always liked to listen to her explanations. 

‘‘Well---?” he said. 

She was becoming breathless and ejaculatory. “Of course you’ll 
laugh — ^you laugh at everything!” 

“That rather blunts the point of my derision, doesn’t it?” he inter- 
jected; but she pushed on without noticing: 

“It’s so easy to laugh at things.” 

“Ah,” murmured Lethbury with relish, “that’s Aunt Sophronia’s^ 
isn’t it?” 

Most of his wife’s opinions were heirlooms, and he took a quaint 
pleasure in tracing their descent. She was proud of their age, and saw 
no reason for discarding them while they were still serviceable. Some, 
of course, were so fine that she kept them for state occasions, like her 
great-grandmother’s Crown Derby; but from the lady known as Aunt 
Sophronia she had inherited a stout set of every-day prejudices that 
were practically as good as new; whereas her husband’s, as she noticed, 
were always having to be replaced. In the early days she had fan- 
cied there might be a certain satisfaction in taxing him with the fact; 
but she had long since been silenced by the reply: “My dear, I’m not a 
rich man, but I never use an opinion twice if I can help it.” 

She was reduced, therefore, to dwelling on his moral deficiencies; 
and one of the most obvious of these was his refusal to take things se- 
riously. On this occasion, however, some ulterior purpose kept her 
from taking up his taunt. 

“I’m not in the least ashamed!” she repeated, with the air of shaking 
a banner to the wind; but the domestic atmosphere being calm, the 
banner drooped unheroically. 

“That,” said Lethbury judicially, “encourages me to infer that you . 
ought to be, and that, consequently, you’ve been giving yourself the 
unusual pleasure of doing something I shouldn’t approve of.” 


109 



EDITH WHARTON 


She met this with an almost solemn directness. “No,” she said. “You 
won’t approve of it. Fve allowed for that.” 

“Ah,” he exclaimed, setting down his liqueur-glass. “You’ve worked 
out the whole problem, eh?” 

“I believe so.” 

“That’s uncommonly interesting. And what is it?” 

She looked at him quietly. “A baby.” 

If it was seldom given her to surprise him, she had attained the dis- 
tinction for once. 

“A baby?” 

“Yes.” 

“A — human baby?” 

“Of course!” she cried, with the virtuous resentment of the woman 
who has never allowed dogs in the house. 

Lethbury’s puzzled stare broke into a fresh smile. “A baby I sha’n’t 
approve of? Well, in the abstract I don’t think much of them, I admit. 
Is this an abstract baby?” 

Again she frowned at the adjective; but she had reached a pitch of 
exaltation at which such obstacles could not deter her. 

“It’s the loveliest baby — ” she murmured. 

“Ah, then it’s concrete. It exists. In this harsh world it draws its 
breath in pain — ” 

“It’s the healthiest child I ever saw!” she indignantly corrected. 

“You’ve seen it, then?” 

Again the accusing blush suffused her. “Yes — ^I’ve seen it.” 

“And to whom does the paragon belong?” 

And here indeed she confounded him. “To me — 1 hope,” she de- 
clared. 

He pushed his chair back with an articulate murmur. “To you — ?” 

“To uSy^ she corrected. 

“Good Lord!” he said. If there had been the least hint of halluci- 
nation in her transparent gaze — ^but no: it was as clear, as shallow, as 
easily fathomable as when he had first suffered the sharp surprise of 
striking bottom in it. 

It occurred to him that perhaps she was trying to be funny: he knew 
that there is nothing more cryptic than the humour of the unhu- 
mourous. 


110 



the mission of jane 


“Is it a joke?” he faltered. 

“Oh, I hope not. I want it so much to be a reality — ” 

He paused to smile at the limitations of a world in which jokes were 
not realities, and continued gently: “But since it is one already — ” 

“To us, I mean: to you and me. I want — ” her voice wavered, and 
her eyes with it. “I have always wanted so dreadfully ... it has been 
such a disappointment . . . not to . . 

“I see,” said Lethbury slowly. 

But he had not seen before. It seemed curious now that he had never 
thought of her taking it in that way, had never surmised any hidden 
depths beneath her outspread obviousness. He felt as though he had 
touched a secret spring in her mind. 

There was a moment’s silence, moist and tremulous on her part, 
awkward and slightly irritated on his. 

“You’ve been lonely, I suppose?” he began. It was odd, having sud- 
denly to reckon with the stranger who gazed at him out of her trivial 
eyes. 

“At times,” she said. 

“I’m sorry.” 

“It was not your fault. A man has so many occupations; and women 
who are clever — or very handsome — ^I suppose that’s an occupation 
too. Sometimes I’ve felt that when dinner was ordered I had nothing 
to do till the next day.” 

“Oh,” he groaned. 

“It wasn’t your fault,” she insisted. “I never told you — but when I 
chose that rose-bud paper for the front room upstairs, I always 
thought — 

“Well—?” 

“It would be such a pretty paper — ^for a baby — ^to wake up in. That 
was years ago, of course; but it was rather an expensive paper . . . and 
it hasn’t faded in the least . • she broke off incoherently. 

“It hasn’t faded?” 

“No — and so I thought ... as we don’t use the room for any- 
thing . . . now that Aunt Sophronia is dead ... I thought I might 
. . . you might ... oh, Julian, if you could only have seen it just 
waking up in its crib!” 

“Seen what — ^where? You haven’t got a baby upstairs?” 

m 



EDITH WHARTON 


no — ^not yet^'‘ she said, with her rare laugh — ^the girlish bub- 
bling of merriment that had seemed one of her chief graces in the 
early days. It occurred to him that he had not given her enough things 
to laugh about lately. But then she needed such very elementary 
things: she was as difficult to amuse as a savage. He concluded that he 
was not sufficiently simple. 

‘‘Alice,” he said almost solemnly, “what do you mean?” 

She hesitated a moment: he saw her gather her courage for a su- 
preme effort. Then she said slowly, gravely, as though she were pro- 
nouncing a sacramental phrase: 

“Fm so lonely without a little child — and I thought perhaps you’d 
let me adopt one. . . . It’s at the hospital ... its mother is dead . . . 
and I could . . . pet it, and dress it, and do things for it . . . and it’s 
such a good baby . . . you can ask any of the nurses ... it would 
never, never bother you by crying . . 

II 

Lethbury accompanied his wife to the hospital in a mood of chas- 
tened wonder. It did not occur to him to oppose her wish. He knew, 
of course, that he would have to bear the brunt of the situation: the 
jokes at the club, the enquiries, the explanations. He saw himself in the 
comic role of the adopted father and welcomed it as an expiation. For 
in his rapid reconstruction of the past he found himself cutting a shab- 
bier figure than he cared to admit. He had always been intolerant of 
stupid people, and it was his punishment to be convicted of stupidity. 
As his mind traversed the years between his marriage and this unex- 
pected assumption of paternity, he saw, in the light of an overheated 
imagination, many signs of unwonted crassness. It was not that he had 
ceased to think his wife stupid: she voas stupid, limited, indexible; but 
there was a pathos in the struggles of her swaddled mind, in its blind 
teachings toward the primal emotions. He had always thought she 
would have been happier with a child; but he had thought it mechan- 
ically, because it had so often been thought before, because it was in 
the nature of things to think it of every woman, because his wife was 
so eminently one of a species that she fitted into all the generalisations 
of the sex. But he had regarded this generalisation as merely typical of 

112 



THE MISSION OF JANE 


the triumph of tradition over experience. Maternity was no doubt the 
supreme function of primitive woman, the one end to which her whole 
organism tended; but the law of increasing complexity had operated 
in both sexes, and he had not seriously supposed that, outside the world 
of Christmas fiction and anecdotic art, such truisms had any special 
hold on the feminine imagination. Now he saw that the arts in question 
were kept alive by the vitality of the sentiments they appealed to. 

Lethbury was in fact going through a rapid process of readjustment. 
His marriage had been a failure, but he had preserved toward his wife 
the exact fidelity of act that is sometimes supposed to excuse any diva- 
gation of feeling; so that, for years, the tie between them had con- 
sisted mainly in his abstaining from making love to other women. The 
abstention had not always been easy, for the world is surprisingly 
well-stocked with the kind of woman one ought to have married but 
did not; and Lethbury had not escaped the solicitation of such alter- 
natives. His immunity had been purchased at the cost of taking refuge 
in the somewhat rarefied atmosphere of his perceptions; and his world 
being thus limited, he had given unusual care to its details, compensat- 
ing himself for the narrowness of his horizon by the minute finish of 
his foreground. It was a world of fine shadings and the nicest propor- 
tions, where impulse seldom set a blundering foot, and the feast of rea- 
son was undisturbed by an intemperate flow of soul. To such a ban- 
quet his wife naturally remained uninvited. The diet would have 
disagreed with her, and she would probably have objected to the 
other guests. But Lethbury, miscalculating her needs, had hitherto 
supposed that he had made ample provision for them, and was con- 
sequently at liberty to enjoy his own fare without any reproach of 
mendicancy at his gates. Now he beheld her pressing a starved face 
against the windows of his life, and in his imaginative reaction he in- 
vested her with a pathos borrowed from the sense of his own short- 
comings. 

In the hospital the imaginative process continued with increasing 
force. He looked at his wife with new eyes. Formerly she had been to 
him a mere bundle of negations, a labyrinth of dead walls and bolted 
doors. There was nothing behind the wails, and the doors led no 
whither: he had sounded and listened often enough to be sure of that. 


113 



€D!TH WHARTOF^ 


Now he felt like a traveller who, exploring some ancient ruin, comes 
on an inner ceil, intact amid the general dilapidation, and painted with 
images which reveal the forgotten uses of the building. 

His wife stood by a white crib in one of the wards. In the crib lay a 
child, a year old, the nurse affirmed, but to Lethbury’s eye a mere 
dateless fragment of humanity projected against a background of con- 
jecture. Over this anonymous particle of life Mrs. Lethbury leaned, 
such ecstasy reflected in her face as strikes up, in Correggio’s Night- 
piece, from the child’s body to the mother’s countenance. It was a light 
that irradiated and dazzled her. She looked up at an enquiry of Leth- 
bury’s, but as their glances met he perceived that she no longer saw 
him, that he had become as invisible to her as she had long been to 
him. He had to transfer his question to the nurse. 

‘‘What is the child’s name?” he asked. 

“We call her Jane,” said the nurse. 

Ill 

Lethbury, at first, had resisted the idea of a legal adoption; but when 
he found that his wife could not be brought to regard the child as hers 
till it had been made so by process of law, he promptly withdrew his 
objection. On one point only he remained inflexible; and that was the 
changing of the waif’s name. Mrs. Lethbury, almost at once, had ex- 
pressed a wish to rechristen it: she fluctuated between Muriel and 
Gladys, deferring the moment of decision like a lady wavering be- 
tween two bonnets. But Lethbury was unyielding. In the general sur- 
render of his prejudices this one alone held out. 

“But Jane is so dreadful,” Mrs. Lethbury protested. 

“Well, we don’t know that she won’t be dreadful. She may grow up 
a Jane.” 

His wife exclaimed reproachfully, “The nurse says she’s the love- 
liest — ” 

“Don’t they always say that?” asked Lethbury patiently. He was 
prepared to be inexhaustibly patient now that he had reached a firm 
foothold of opposition. 

“It’s cruel to call her Jane,” Mrs. Lethbury pleaded. 

“It’s ridiculous to call her Muriel.” 

“The nurse is sure she must be a lady’s child.” 


114 



THE MISSION OF JANE 


Lethbury winced: he had tried, all along, to keep his mind off the 
question of antecedents. 

“Well, let her prove it,” he said, with a rising sense of exasperation. 
He wondered how he could ever have allowed himself to be drawn 
into such a ridiculous business; for the first time he felt the full irony 
of it. He had visions of coming home in the afternoon to a house smell- 
ing of linseed and paregoric, and of being greeted by a chronic howl 
as he went up stairs to dress for dinner. He had never been a club-man, 
but he saw himself becoming one now. 

The worst of his anticipations were unfulfilled. The baby was sur- 
prisingly well and surprisingly quiet. Such infantile remedies as she 
absorbed were not potent enough to be perceived beyond the nursery; 
and when Lethbury could be induced to enter that sanctuary, there 
was nothing to jar his nerves in the mild pink presence of his adopted 
daughter. Jars there were, indeed: they were probably inevitable in the 
disturbed routine of the household; but they occurred between Mrs. 
Lethbury and the nurses, and Jane contributed to them only a placid 
stare which might have served as a rebuke to the combatants. 

In the reaction from his first impulse of atonement, Lethbury noted 
with sharpened perceptions the effect of the change on his wife’s char- 
acter. He saw already the error of supposing that it could work any 
transformation in her. It simply magnified her existing qualities. She 
was like a dried sponge put in water; she expanded, but she did not 
change her shape. From the stand-point of scientific observation it was 
curious to see how her stored instincts responded to the pseudo-ma- 
ternal call. She overflowed with the petty maxims of the occasion. One 
felt in her the epitome, the consummation, of centuries of animal ma- 
ternity, so that this little woman, who screamed at a mouse and was 
nervous about burglars, came to typify the cave-mother rending her 
prey for her young. 

It was less easy to regard philosophically the practical effects of her 
borrowed motherhood. Lethbury found with surprise that she was 
becoming assertive and definite. She no longer represented the negative 
side of his life; she showed, indeed, a tendency to inconvenient afiir- 
mations. She had gradually expanded her assumption of motherhood 
till it included his own share in the relation, and he suddenly found 
himself regarded as the father of Jane. This was a contingency he had 

115 



EDITH WHARTON 


not foreseen, and it took all his philosophy to accept it; but there were 
moments of compensation. For Mrs. Lethbury was undoubtedly happy 
for the first time in years; and the thought that he had tardily contrib- 
uted to this end reconciled him to the irony of the means. 

At first he was inclined to reproach himself for still viewing the 
situation from the outside, for remaining a spectator instead of a par- 
ticipant. He had been allured, for a moment, by the vision of severed 
hands meeting over a cradle, as the whole body of domestic fiction 
bears witness to their doing; and the fact that no such conjunction 
took place he could explain only on the ground that it was a borrowed 
cradle. He did not dislike the little girl. She still remained to him a 
hypothetical presence, a query rather than a fact; but her nearness was 
not unpleasant, and there were moments when her tentative utterances, 
her groping steps, seemed to loosen the dry accretions enveloping fiis 
inner self. But even at such moments — ^moments which he invited and 
caressed — ^she did not bring him nearer to his wife. He now perceived 
that he had made a certain place in his life for Mrs. Lethbury, and that 
she no longer fitted into it. It was too late to enlarge the space, and so 
she overfiowed and encroached. Lethbury struggled against the sense 
of submergence. He let down barrier after barrier, yielding privacy 
after privacy; but his wife’s personality continued to dilate. She was 
no longer herself alone: she was herself and Jane. Gradually, in a 
monstrous fusion of identity, she became herself, himself and Jane; and 
instead of trying to adapt her to a spare crevice of his character, he 
found himself carelessly squeezed into the smallest compartment of the 
domestic economy. 


IV 

He continued to tell himself that he was satisfied if his wife was 
happy; and it was not till the child’s tenth year that he felt a doubt of 
her happiness. 

Jane had been a preternaturally good child. During the eight years 
of her adoption she had caused her foster-parents no anxiety beyond 
those connected with the usual succession of youthful diseases. But her 
unknown progenitors had given her a robust constitution, and she 
passed unperturbed through measles, chicken-pox and whooping- 
cough. If there was any suffering it was endured vicariously by Mrs. 

lU 



THE MISSION OF JANE 

Lethbnry, whose temperature rose and fell with the patient’s, and 
who could not hear Jane sneeze without visions of a marble angel 
weeping over a broken column. But though Jane’s prompt recoveries 
continued to belie such premonitions, though her existence continued 
to move forward on an even keel of good health and good conduct, 
Mrs. Lethbury’s satisfaction showed no corresponding advance. Leth- 
bury, at first, was disposed to add her disappointment to the long list 
of feminine inconsistencies with which the sententious observer of life 
builds up his favourable induction; but circumstances presently led 
him to take a kindlier view of the case. 

Hitherto his wife had regarded him as a negligible factor in Jane’s 
evolution. Beyond providing for his adopted daughter, and effacing 
himself before her, he was not expected to contribute to her well- 
being. But as time passed he appeared to his wife in a new light. It was 
he who was to educate Jane. In matters of the intellect, Mrs. Lethbury 
was the first to declare her deficiencies — to proclaim them, even, with 
a certain virtuous superiority. She said she did not pretend to be 
clever, and there was no denying the truth of the assertion. Now, how- 
ever, she seemed less ready, not to own her limitations, but to glory 
in them. Confronted with the problem of Jane’s instruction she stood 
in awe of the child. 

“I have always been stupid, you know,” she said to Lethbury with 
a new humility, “and Fm afraid I sha’n’t know what is best for Jane. 
I’m sure she has a wonderfully good mind, and I should reproach 
myself if I didn’t give her every opportunity.” She looked at him help- 
lessly. “You must tell me what ought to be done.” 

Lethbury was not unwilling to oblige her. Somewhere in his mental 
lumber-room there rusted a theory of education such as usually lingers 
among the impedimenta of the childless. He brought this out, refur- 
bished it, and applied it to Jane. At first he thought his wife had not 
overrated the quality of the child’s mind. Jane seemed extraordinarily 
intelligent. Her precocious definiteness of mind was encouraging to 
her inexperienced preceptor. She had no difficulty in fixing her atten- 
tion, and he felt that every fact he imparted was being etched in metal. 
He helped his wife to engage the best teachers, and for a while con- 
tinued to take an ex-official interest in his adopted daughter’s studies. 
But gradually his interest waned. Jane’s ideas did not increase with 


117 



EDITH WHARTON 


her acquisitions. Her young mind remained a mere receptacle for 
facts: a kind of cold-storage from which anything which had been put 
there could be taken out at a moment’s notice, intact but congealed. 
She developed, moreover, an inordinate pride in the capacity of her 
mental storehouse, and a tendency to pelt her public with its contents. 
She was overheard to jeer at her nurse for not knowing when the 
Saxon Heptarchy had fallen, and she alternately dazzled and depressed 
Mrs. Lethbury by the wealth of her chronological allusions. She 
showed no interest in the significance of the facts she amassed; she 
simply collected dates as another child might have collected stamps or 
marbles. To her foster-mother she seemed a prodigy of wisdom; but 
Lethbury saw, with a secret movement of sympathy, how the apti- 
tudes in which Mrs. Lethbury gloried were slowly estranging her 
from her child, 

“She is getting too clever for me,” his wife said to him, after one 
of Jane’s historical flights, “but I am so glad that she will be a com- 
panion to you.” 

Lethbury groaned in spirit. He did not look forward to Jane’s com- 
panionship. She was still a good little girl: but there was something 
automatic and formal in her goodness, as though it were a kind of 
moral calisthenics which she went through for the sake of showing 
her agility. An early consciousness of virtue had moreover constituted 
her the natural guardian and adviser of her elders. Before she was fif- 
teen she had set about reforming the household. She took Mrs, Leth- 
bury in hand first; then she extended her efforts to the servants, with 
consequences more disastrous to the domestic harmony; and lastly she 
applied herself to Lethbury. She proved to him by statistics that he 
smoked too much, and that it was injurious to the optic nerve to read 
in bed. She took him to task for not going to church more regularly, 
and pointed out to him the evils of desultory reading. She suggested 
that a regular course of study encourages mental concentration, and 
hinted that inconsecutiveness of thought is a sign of approaching age. 

To her adopted mother her suggestions were equally pertinent. She 
instructed Mrs. Lethbury in an improved way of making beef stock, 
and called her attention to the unhygienic qualities of carpets. She 
poured out distracting facts about bacilli and vegetable mould, and 
demonstrated that curtains and picture-frames are a hot-bed of an- 

118 



THE MISSION OF JANE 

imal organisms. She learned by heart the nutritive ingredients of the 
principal articles of diet, and revolutionised the cuisine by an attempt 
to establish a scientific average between starch and phosphates. Four 
cooks left during this experiment, and Lethbury fell into the habit 
of dining at his club. 

Once or twice, at the outset, he had tried to check Jane’s ardour; 
but his efforts resulted only in hurting his wife’s feelings. Jane re- 
mained impervious, and Mrs. Lethbury resented any attempt to protect 
her from her daughter, Lethbury saw that she was consoled for the 
sense of 'her own inferiority by the thought of what Jane’s intellectual 
companionship must be to him; and he tried to keep up the illusion by 
enduring with what grace he might the blighting edification of Jane’s 
discourse. 


V 

f 

As Jane grew up he sometimes avenged himself by wondering if his 
wife was still sorry that they had not called her Muriel. Jane was not 
ugly; she developed, indeed, a kind of categorical prettiness which 
might have been a projection of her mind. She had a creditable collec- 
tion of features, but one had to take an inventory of them to find out 
that she was good-looking. The fusing grace had been omitted. 

Mrs. Lethbury took a touching pride in her daughter’s first steps in 
the world. She expected Jane to take by her complexion those whom 
she did not capture by her learning. But Jane’s rosy freshness did not 
work any perceptible ravages. Whether the young men guessed the 
axioms on her lips and detected the encyclopsedia in her eye, or 
whether they simply found no intrinsic interest in these features, cer- 
tain it is, that, in spite of her mother’s heroic efforts, and of incessant 
calls on Lethbury ’s purse, Jane, at the end of her first season, had 
dropped hopelessly out of the running. A few duller girls found her 
interesting, and one or two young men came to the house with the 
object of meeting other young women; but she was rapidly becoming 
one of the social supernumeraries who are asked out only because they 
are on people’s lists. 

The blow was bitter to Mrs. Lethbury; but she consoled herself 
with the idea that Jane had failed because she was too clever. Jane 
probably shared this conviction; at all events she betrayed no con- 


119 



EDITH WHARTON 


sciousness of failure. She had developed a pronounced taste for society, 
and went out, unweariedly and obstinately, winter after winter, while 
Mrs. Lethbury toiled in her wake, showering attentions on oblivious 
hostesses. To Lethbury there was something at once tragic and exas- 
perating in the sight of their two figures, the one conciliatory, the 
other dogged, both pursuing with unabated zeal the elusive prize of 
popularity. He even began to feel a personal stake in the pursuit, not 
as it concerned Jane but as it affected his wife. He saw that the latter 
was the victim of Jane’s disappointment: that Jane was not above 
the crude satisfaction of ‘‘taking it out” of her mother. Experience 
checked the impulse to come to his wife’s defence; and when his 
resentment was at its height, Jane disarmed him by giving up the 
struggle. 

Nothing was said to mark her capitulation; but Lethbury noticed 
that the visiting ceased and that the dressmaker’s bills diminished. At 
the same time Mrs. Lethbury made it known that Jane had taken up 
charities; and before long Jane’s conversation confirmed this an- 
nouncement. At first Lethbury congratulated himself on the change; 
but Jane’s domesticity soon began to weigh on him. During the day 
she was sometimes absent on errands of mercy; but in the evening she 
was always there. At first she and Mrs. Lethbury sat in the drawing- 
room together, and Lethbury smoked in the library; but presently Jane 
formed the habit of joining him there, and he began to suspect that 
he was included among the objects of her philanthropy. 

Mrs. Lethbury confirmed the suspicion. “Jane has grown very seri- 
ous-minded lately,” she said. “She imagines that she used to neglect 
you and she is trying to make up for it. Don’t discourage her,” she 
added innocently. 

Such a plea delivered Lethbury helpless to his daughter’s ministra- 
tions; and he found himself measuring the hours he spent with her by 
the amount of relief they must be affording her mother. There were 
even moments when he read a furtive gratitude in Mrs. Lethbury’s eye. 

But Lethbury was no hero, and he had nearly reached the limit of 
vicarious endurance when something wonderful happened. They never 
quite knew afterward how it had come about, or who first perceived 
it; but Mrs. Lethbur)?^ one day gave tremulous voice to their discovery. 

120 



THE MISSION OF JANE 


“Of course,” she said, “he comes here because of Elise.” The young 
lady in question, a friend of Jane’s, was possessed of attractions which 
had akeady been found to explain the presence of masculine visitors. 

Lethbury risked a denial. “I don’t think he does,” he declared. 

“But Elise is thought very pretty,” Mrs. Lethbury insisted. 

“I can’t help that,” said Lethbury doggedly. 

He saw a faint light in his wife’s eyes; but she remarked carelessly: 
“Mr. Budd would be a very good match for Elise.” 

Lethbury could hardly repress a chuckle: he was so exquisitely 
aware that she was trying to propitiate the gods. 

For a few weeks neither said a word; then Mrs. Lethbury once more 
reverted to the subject. 

“It is a month since Elise went abroad,” she said. 

“Is it?” 

“And Mr. Budd seems to come here just as often — ” 

“Ah,” said Lethbury with heroic indifference; and his wife hastily 
changed the subject. 

Mr. Winstanley Budd was a young man who suffered from an excess 
of manner. Politeness gushed from him in the driest seasons. He was 
always performing feats of drawing-room chivalry, and the approach 
of the most unobtrusive female threw him into attitudes which endan- 
gered the furniture. His features, being of the cherubic order, did 
not lend themselves to this role; but there were moments when he ap- 
peared to dominate them, to force them into compliance with an aqui- 
line ideal. The range of Mr. Budd’s social benevolence made its object 
hard to distinguish. He spread his cloak so indiscriminately that one 
could not always interpret the gesture, and Jane’s impassive manner 
had the effect of increasing his demonstrations: she threw him into 
paroxysms of politeness. 

At first he filled the house with his amenities; but gradually it be- 
came apparent that his most dazzling effects w^ere directed exclusively 
to Jane. Lethbury and his wife held their breath and looked away from 
each other. They pretended not to notice the frequency of Mr. Budd’s 
visits, they struggled against an imprudent inclination to leave the 
young people too much alone. Their conclusions were the result of 
indirect observation, for neither of them dared to be caught watching 


121 



EDITH WHARTON 


Mr. Budd: they behaved like naturalists on the trail of a rare butterfly. 

In his efforts not to notice Mr. Budd, Lethbury centred his attentions 
on Jane; and Jane, at this crucial moment, wrung from him a reluctant 
admiration. While her parents went about dissembling their emotions, 
she seemed to have none to conceal. She betrayed neither eagerness 
nor surprise; so complete was her unconcern that there were moments 
when Lethbury feared it was obtuseness, when he could hardly help 
whispering to her that now was the moment to lower the net. 

Meanwhile the velocity of Mr. Budd’s gyrations increased with the 
ardour of courtship; his politeness became incandescent, and Jane 
found herself the centre of a pyrotechnicai display culminating in the 
‘‘set piece’’ of an offer of marriage. 

Mrs. Lethbury imparted the news to her husband one evening after 
their daughter had gone to bed. The announcement was made and 
received with an air of detachment, as though both feared to be be- 
trayed into unseemly exultation; but Lethbury, as his wife ended, 
could not repress the inquiry, “Have they decided on a day?” 

Mrs. Lethbury’s superior command of her features enabled her to 
look shocked. “What can you be thinking of? He only offered himself 
at five!” 

“Of course — of course — ” stammered Lethbury — “but nowadays 
people marry after such short engagements — ” 

“Engagement!” said his wife solemnly. “There is no engagement.” 

Lethbury dropped his cigar. “What on earth do you mean?” 

“Jane is thinking it over.” 

^^Thinking it overP^ 

“She has asked for a month before deciding.” 

Lethbury sank back with a gasp. Was it genius or was it madness? 
He felt incompetent to decide; and Mrs. Lethbury’s next words 
showed that she shared his difEculty. 

“Of course I don’t want to hurry Jane — ” 

“Of course not,” he acquiesced. 

“But I pointed out to her that a young man of Mr. Budd’s impulsive 
temperament might — might be easily discouraged — ” 

“Yes; and what did she say?” 

“She said that if she was worth winning she was worth waiting for.” 


122 



THE MISSION OF JANE 


VI 

The period of Mr. Budd’s probation could scarcely have cost him as 
much mental anguish as it caused his would-be parents-in-law. 

Mrs. Lethbury, by various ruses, tried to shorten the ordeal, but 
Jane remained inexorable; and each morning Lethbury came down to 
breakfast with the certainty of finding a letter of withdrawal from 
her discouraged suitor. 

When at length the decisive day came, and Mrs. Lethbury, at its 
close, stole into the library with an air of chastened joy, they stood 
for a moment without speaking; then Mrs. Lethbury paid a fitting 
tribute to the proprieties by faltering out: “It will be dreadful to 
have to give her up — ” 

Lethbury could not repress a warning gesture; but even as it escaped 
him he realised that his wife’s grief was genuine. 

“Of course, of course,” he said, vainly sounding his own emotional 
shallows for an answering regret. And yet it was his wife who had 
suffered most from Jane! 

He had fancied that these sufferings would be effaced by the milder 
atmosphere of their last weeks together; but felicity did not soften 
Jane, Not for a moment did she relax her dominion; she simply wid- 
ened it to include a new subject. Mr. Budd found himself under orders 
with the others; and a new fear assailed Lethbury as he saw Jane as- 
sume prenuptial control of her betrothed. Lethbury had never felt 
any strong personal interest in Mr. Budd; but as Jane’s prospective 
husband the young man excited his sympathy. To his surprise he 
found that Mrs. Lethbury shared the feeling. 

“Fm afraid he may find Jane a little exacting,” she said, after an eve- 
ning dedicated to a stormy discussion of the wedding arrangements. 
“She really ought to make some concessions. If he v)ants to be mar- 
ried in a black frock-coat instead of a dark gray one — ” She paused 
and looked doubtfully at Lethbury. 

“What can I do about it?” he said. 

“You might explain to him — ^teil him that Jane isn’t always — ” 

Lethbury made an impatient gesture, “What are you afraid of? 
His finding her out or his not finding her out?” 


123 



EDITH WHARTON 


Mrs. Lethbury flushed. “You put it so dreadfully!” 

Her husband mused for a moment; then he said with an air of 
cheerful hypocrisy: “After all, Budd is old enough to take care 
of himself.” 

But the next day Mrs. Lethbury surprised him. Late in the after- 
noon she entered the library, so breathless and inarticulate that he 
scented a catastrophe. 

“IVe done it!” she cried. 

“Done what?” 

“Told him.” She nodded toward the door. “He’s just gone. Jane 
is out, and I had a chance to talk to him alone.” 

Lethbury pushed a chair forward and she sank into it. 

“What did you tell him? That she is not always — ” 

Mrs. Lethbury lifted a tragic eye, “No; I told him that she always 
/r— ” 

“Always h—r 

“Yes.” 

There was a pause. Lethbury made a call on his hoarded philoso- 
phy. He saw Jane suddenly reinstated in her evening seat by the 
library fire; but an answering chord in him thrilled at his wife’s 
heroism. 

“Well—what did he say?” 

Mrs. Lethbury’s agitation deepened. It was clear that the blow had 
fallen. 

“He • , . he said . . . that we . . . had never understood Jane 
... or appreciated her . . The final syllables were lost in her 
handkerchief, and she left him marvelling at the mechanism of 
woman. 

After that, Lethbury faced the future with an undaunted eye. They 
had done their duty — at least his wife had done hers — and they were 
reaping the usual harvest of ingratitude with a zest seldom accorded 
to such reaping. There was a marked change in Mr. Budd’s manner, 
and his increasing coldness sent a genial glow through Lethbury^s 
system. It was easy to bear with Jane in the light of Mr. Budd’s dis- 
approval. 

There was a good deal to be borne in the last days, and the brunt of 

124 



THE MISSION OF JANE 


it fell on Mrs. Lethbury. Jane marked her transition to the married 
state by a seasonable but incongruous display of nerves. She became 
sentimental, hysterical and reluctant. She quarrelled with her be- 
trothed and threatened to return the ring. Mrs. Lethbury had to inter- 
vene, and Lethbury felt the hovering sword of destiny. But the blow 
was suspended. Mr. Budd’s chivalry was proof against all his bride’s 
caprices and his devotion throve on her cruelty. Lethbury feared that 
he was too faithful, too enduring, and longed to urge him to vary his 
tactics. Jane presently reappeared with the ring on her finger, and 
consented to try on the wedding-dress; but her uncertainties, her re- 
actions, were prolonged till the final day. 

When it dawned, Lethbury was still in an ecstasy of apprehension. 
Feeling reasonably sure of the principal actors he had centred his fears 
on incidental possibilities. The clergyman might have a stroke, or 
the church might burn down, or there might be something wrong 
with the license. He did all that was humanly possible to avert such 
contingencies, but there remained that incalculable factor known as 
the hand of God. Lethbury seemed to feel it groping for him. 

At the altar it almost had him by the nape. Mr. Budd was late; and 
for five immeasurable minutes Lethbury and Jane faced a churchful 
of conjecture. Then the bridegroom appeared, flushed but chivalrous, 
and explaining to his father-in-law under cover of the ritual that he 
had torn his glove and had to go back for another. 

^‘You’ll be losing the ring next,” muttered Lethbury; but Mr. Budd 
produced this article punctually, and a moment or two later was bear- 
ing its wearer captive down the aisle. 

At the wedding-breakfast Lethbury caught his wife’s eye fixed on 
him in mild disapproval, and understood that his hilarity was exceed- 
ing the bounds of fitness. He pulled himself together and tried to sub- 
d¥ie his tone; but his jubilation bubbled over like a champagne-glass 
perpetually refilled. The deeper his draughts the higher it rose. 

It was at the brim when, in the wake of the dispersing guests, Jane 
came down in her travelling-dress and fell on her mother’s neck. 

can’t leave you!” she wailed, and Lethbury felt as suddenly so- 
bered as a man under a douche. But if the bride was reluctant her cap- 
tor was relentless. Never had Mr. Budd been more dominant, more 


125 



EDITH WHARTON 


aquiline. Lethbury’s last fears were dissipated as the young man 
snatched Jane from her mother’s bosom and bore her off to the 
brougham. 

The brougham rolled away, the last milliner’s girl forsook her post 
by the awning, the red carpet was folded up, and the house door 
closed. Lethbury stood alone in the hall with his wife. As he turned 
toward her, he noticed the look of tired heroism in her eyes, the deep- 
ened lines of her face. They reflected his own symptoms too accu- 
rately not to appeal to him. The nervous tension had been horrible. 
He went up to her, and an answering impulse made her lay a hand on 
his arm. He held it there a moment. 

“Let us go off and have a jolly little dinner at a restaurant,” he pro- 
posed. 

There had been a time when such a suggestion would have surprised 
her to the verge of disapproval; but now she agreed to it at once. 

“Oh, that would be so nice,” she murmured with a great sigh of 
relief and assuagement. 

Jane had fulfilled her mission after all: she had drawn them to- 
gether at last. 

EDITH WHARTON Born into a well-to-do and socially prominent 
family in New York on January 24, 1862, Edith Newbold Jones spent 
her early life in and around New York City and Newport, Rhode Is- 
land. The youngest child in the family, much younger than her broth- 
ers, she was educated by governesses and tutors. An important part of 
her education w^as travel with her parents in Italy, Spain, and France. 
From her early years she was attracted to story-telling, reading, and 
writing; at eleven she attempted a novel, and at fifteen another. In 
1885, after several years of fashionable society life (she made her debut 
at seventeen), she married Edward Wharton, a Boston banker de- 
scended from a Virginia family. Although the society in which she 
lived looked upon ■writers with disinterest or critical suspicion, she 
wrote short stories (first published in Scribnefs Magazine), poetry, 
longer stories or novelettes, and novels. She and her husband lived in 
New York, in Newport, or in Lenox, Massachusetts, until in 1906 they 
moved to Paris. A mental disorder which had appeared in her husband 
a few years after their marriage grew steadily worse; they separated 
in 1912 and were divorced in 1913. She continued to live abroad, 
chiefly in Paris, where she was accepted in literary circles, but at times 
in England, where she visited Henry James and younger friends. Dur- 

126 



THE MISSION OF JANE 


ing World War I she was indefatigable in war work in Paris. Only 
once did she return to the United States — ^in 1923, when she became 
the first woman to receive the degree of Doctor of Letters from Yale 
University. On August 11, 1937, she died at her villa in France. She 
was buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Versailles. 

Her first book was the result of her dislike of the cluttered houses 
of the late nineteenth century: with Ogden Codman she wrote The 
Decoration of Houses (1897). Eleven volumes of her short stories ap- 
peared between 1899 and 1937, the two best being The Descent of 
Man and Other Stories (1904) and Xingu and Other Stories (1916). 
Of her twenty-four novels, from The Touchstone (1900) to her un- 
completed The Bucca?ieers (1938), three stand out: The House of 
Mirth (1905), a social satire showing the ill effects of both poverty and 
wealth on man’s and woman’s possibilities for excellence; Ethaii Frome 
(1911), a tragic, passionate, but restrained novelette of bleak New 
England; and The Age of Innocence (1920), which won the Pulitzer 
Prize, a satirical yet indulgent novel of New York society in the 
1870’s. Almost as good as The Age of Innocence are the four short 
novels published under the general title Old New York (1924); each 
treats a decade of life in New York from the 1840’s through the 1870’s, 

Edith Wharton has named the foremost awakeners of her mind, the 
ones who introduced her to a technique of thinking: Charles Darwin, 
author of The Origm of Species (1859); Blaise Pascal, the meditative 
French writer of the seventeenth century; Henry Coppee, whose Ele- 
ments of Logic (1857) was a college textbook of her brother’s; and 
Sir William Hamilton, whose lectures on philosophy were also her 
brother’s textbook, Ruskin and Sainte-Beuve she also read. When she 
began to write fiction, she was partly under the influence of Paul Bour- 
get, a psychological novelist who later became her friend in Paris, and 
Henry James, the American novelist who lived much of his life in 
England. With these two authors, whom she never slavishly imitated, 
she has much in common. Like theirs, her fiction is more often intel- 
lectual and analytical than emotional. The ironic sense of comedy in 
many of her works is out of harmony with deep emotion; but occa- 
sionally, as in Ethan Frome^ she strikes a profound note of tragedy, 
impossible without emotion. Her work before World War I, often 
more realistic and outspoken than that of her contemporaries (except 
Theodore Dreiser), caused her to be denounced for over-frankness 
and immodesty. By the time she was writing her autobiography, A 
Backward Glance (1934), she was able to see with rather bitter amuse- 
ment that the realism and naturalism of the 1920’s and 1930’s had gone 
so far beyond her realistic writing that she was classed among the prigs 
and prudes of the “genteel” tradition. 

Her point of view generally is that of the intelligent spectator who 

127 



EDITH WHARTON 


sees and illustrates the shortcomings of the society in which she lives. 
Before her death she came to believe that the world of which she had 
written so caustically was not so bad after all; it had many solid virtues 
which were lacking in the younger generation. Her women characters 
are more real than the men, who are usually intelligent but ineffectual 
Intelligent, frequently knowing their own faults as w'ell as the reader 
does, the men are nevertheless too weak to face the criticism and social 
ostracism that would result from an unconventional marriage or ai- 
liance. Consequently, they frequently sacrifice love for convenient 
marriage and a safe harbor in society. Percy Lubbock explains 
this sterility by suggesting that Edith Wharton’s men characters are 
made in the image of her lifelong friend. Waiter Berry. If this sugges- 
tion is true, friendship and social convention have exacted a heavy 
toll from art. Many of her women, on the other hand, are warm- 
hearted, generous, loving, and loyal; they are reminiscent in these 
respects of the heroines of George Eliot. Most are as intelligent as the 
men, but they are more willing to sacrifice social position for love. 

The careful workmanship in Edith Wharton’s fiction is everywhere 
apparent. In her autobiography she mentions that she never attached 
much importance to subject^ because she always had more subjects 
than she could possibly use; more important to her was what the im- 
agination could make of the subject, any subject. She was careful of 
both sound and sense in language. She relished the sparkling, witty, 
aphoristic statement. Such phrases inevitably tend to be cold as well as 
brilliant, because they are the fruit of intellectual analysis rather than 
sympathy with the character or situation. 

‘The Mission of Jane” is reprinted from The Descent of Man and 
Other Stories. 

Much has been written on Edith Wharton. Of value are her own 
The Writing of Fiction (1925) and A Backward Glance (1934). Fur- 
ther evaluation and comment may be found in Robert Morss Lovett, 
Edith Wharton (1925); Percy Lubbock, Portrait of Edith Wharton 
(1947); and Edmund Wilson, “Justice to Edith Wharton,” in his The 
Wound and the Bow (1947). 


QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Describe Lethbury’s attitude toward his wife at the beginning 
of the story. How and why does his attitude alter.^ Do you think the 
alteration is considerable? Do changes occur in the character of Mrs. 
Lethbury as Jane grows up? If not changes in character, then what 
kind of changes? Which one of the Lethburys is the more altered as a 
result of contact with Jane? Explain carefully. 

2. Characterize Jane. Do you sympathize with her? How do you 


128 



THE MISSION OF JANE 


account for your feeling? Is Mr. Budd a suitable husband for her? 
Why? 

3. Can you think of a popularly held opinion concerning the 
influence of children upon their parents which this story may be said 
to illustrate? But has Edith Wharton treated the popular opinion ironi- 
cally? Does she seem to you to attempt to criticize a sentimental ^ atti- 
tude by realistically altering the pattern of conduct which it assumes? 
If so, does her criticism seem to you likely to affect the thinking of 
those who have accepted the sentimental pattern? If not, would the 
reading of several stories like this affect it? In short, are people’s atti- 
tudes molded, at least in part, by the fiction which they read? 

4. Would the story be improved if the last paragraph were omit- 
ted? Would you as a reader prefer to interpret the story for yourself? 
Do you think this explicit interpretation is the only one or the most 
valid one to be drawn from the story? Are there any pointed, aphoris- 
tic remarks earlier in the story that prepare you for this specific end- 
ing? In general, does the author seem to dominate the reader’s thinking 
too completely? 

5. In what ways can you relate this story to the author’s life and 
environment? Does the story reveal strengths and weaknesses that can 
be directly related to the author’s position in society? Be specific. 


129 



THE DOLL'S HOUSE 


When dear old Mrs. 

Hay went back to town after staying with the Burnells she sent the 
children a dolFs house. It was so big that the carter and Pat carried 
it into the courtyard, and there it stayed, propped up on two wooden 
boxes beside the feed-room door. No harm could come to it; it was 
summer. And perhaps the smell of paint would have gone off by the 
time it had to be taken in. For, really, the smell of paint cokiing from 
that doll’s house (“Sweet of old Mrs. Hay, of course; most sweet and 
generous!”) — but the smell of paint was quite enough tq/make any 
one seriously ill, in Aunt Beryl’s opinion. Even before the/sacking was 
taken off. And when it was. . . . 

There stood the doll’s house, a dark, oily, spinach green, picked out 
with bright yellow. Its two solid little chimneys, glued on to the roof, 
were painted red and white, and the door, gleaming with yellow var- 
nish, was like a little slab of toffee. Four windows, real windows, were 
divided into panes by a broad streak of green. There was actually a 
tiny porch, too, painted yellow, with big lumps of congealed paint 
hanging along the edge. 

But perfect, perfect little house! Who could possibly mind the 
smell? It was part of the joy, part of the newness. 

“Open it quickly, some one!” 

The hook at the side was stuck fast. Pat pried it open with his pen- 
knife, and the whole house-front swung back, and — there you were, 

Reprinted from The Short Stones of Katherine Mansfield by Katherine 
Mansfield, by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright, 1923, 1937, by 
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

130 



THE DOLL^S HOUSE 


gazing at one and the same moment into the drawing-room and din- 
ing-room, the kitchen and two bedrooms. That is the way for a house 
to open! Why don’t ail houses open like that? How much more excit- 
ing than peering through the slit of a door into a mean little hall with 
a hatstand and two umbrellas! That is — ^isn’t it? — ^what you long to 
know about a house when you put your hand on the knocker. Per- 
haps it is the way God opens houses at dead of night when He is tak- 
ing a quiet turn with an angel. . . . 

“O-oh!” The Burnell children sounded as though they were in de- 
spair. It was too marvellous; it was too much for them. They had 
never seen anything like it in their lives. All the rooms were papered. 
There were pictures on the walls, painted on the paper, with gold 
frames complete. Red carpet covered all the floors except the kitchen; 
red plush chairs in the drawing-room, green in the dining-room; 
tables, beds with real bedclothes, a cradle, a stove, a dresser with tiny 
plates and one big jug. But what Kezia liked more than anything, what 
she liked frightfully, was the lamp. It stood in the middle of the din- 
ing-room table, an exquisite little amber lamp with a white globe. It 
was even filled all ready for lighting, though, of course, you couldn’t 
light it. But there was something inside that looked like oil, and that 
moved when you shook it. 

The father and mother dolls, who sprawled very stiff as though 
they had fainted in the drawing-room, and their two little children 
asleep upstairs, were really too big for the doll’s house. They didn’t 
look as though they belonged. But the lamp was perfect. It seemed 
to smile at Kezia, to say, “I live here.” The lamp was real. 

The Burnell children could hardly walk to school fast enough the 
next morning. They burned to tell everybody, to describe, to — ^well 
— ^to boast about their doll’s house before the school-bell rang. 

‘‘I’m to tell,” said Isabel, “because I’m the eldest. And you two can 
join in after. But I’m to tell first.” 

There was nothing to answer. Isabel was bossy, but she was always 
right, and Lottie and Kezia knew too well the powers that went with 
being eldest. They brushed through the thick buttercups at the road 
edge and said nothing. 

“And I’m to choose who’s to come and see it first. Mother said I 
might.” 


131 



KATHERINE MANSFIELD 


For it had been arranged that while the dolFs house stood in the 
courtyard they might ask the girls at school, two at a time, to come 
and look. Not to stay to tea, of course, or to come traipsing through 
the house. But just to stand quietly in the courtyard while Isabel 
pointed out the beauties, and Lottie and Kezia looked pleased. . . . 

But hurry as they might, by the time they had reached the tarred 
palings of the boys’ playground the bell had begun to jangle. They 
only just had time to whip off their hats and fall into line before the 
roE was called. Never mind. Isabel tried to make up for k by looking 
very important and mysterious and by whispering behind her hand to 
the girls near her, “Got something to tell you at playtime.” 

Playtime came and Isabel was surrounded. The girls of her class 
nearly fought to put their arms round her, to walk away with her, to 
beam flatteringly, to be her special friend. She held quite a court un- 
der the huge pine trees at the side of the playground. Nudging, gig- 
gling together, the little girls pressed up close. And the only two who 
stayed outside the ring were the two who were always outside, the 
little Kelveys. They knew better than to come anywhere near the 
Burnells. 

For the fact was, the school the Burnell children w-ent to was not at 
all the kind of place their parents would have chosen if there had been 
any choice. But there was none. It was the only school for miles. And 
the consequence was all the children in the neighbourhood, the 
Judge’s little girls, the doctor’s daughters, the storekeeper’s children, 
the milkman’s, were forced to mix together. Not to speak of there 
being an equal number of rude, rough little boys as well But the line 
had to be drawn somewhere. It was drawn at the Kelveys. Many of 
the children, including the Burnells, were not allowed even to speak 
to them. They walked past the Kelveys with their heads in the air, 
and as they set the fashion in all matters of behaviour, the Kelveys 
were shunned by everybody. Even the teacher had a special voice for 
them, and a special smile for the other children when Lil Kelvey 
came up to her desk with a bunch of dreadfully common-looking 
flowers. 

They were the daughters of a spry, hardworking little washer- 
woman, who went about from house to house by the day. This was 
awful enough. But where was Mr. Kelvey? Nobody knew for certain. 

132 



THE DOLL'S HOUSE 


But everybody said he was in prison. So they were the daughters of a 
washerwoman and a gaolbird. Very nice company for other peo- 
ple’s children! And they looked it. Why Mrs. Kelvey made them so 
conspicuous was hard to understand. The truth was they were dressed 
in “bits” given to her by the people for whom she worked. Lil, for 
instance, who was a stout, plain child, with big freckles, came to 
school in a dress made from a green art-serge table-cloth of the Bur- 
nells’, with red plush sleeves from the Logans’ curtains. Her hat, 
perched on top of her high forehead, was a grown-up woman’s hat, 
once the property of Miss Lecky, the postmistress. It was turned up 
at the back and trimmed with a large scarlet quill. What a little guy 
she looked! It was impossible not to laugh. And her little sister, our 
Else, wore a long white dress, rather like a nightgowm, and a pair of 
little boy’s boots. But whatever our Else wore she would have looked 
strange. She was a tiny wishbone of a child, with cropped hair and 
enormous solemn eyes — a little white owl. Nobody had ever seen her 
smile; she scarcely ever spoke. She went through life holding on to 
Lil, with a piece of Lil’s skirt screwed up in her hand. Where Lil went 
our Else followed. In the playground, on the road going to and from 
school, there was Lil marching in front and our Else holding on be- 
hind. Only when she wanted anything, or when she was out of breath, 
our Else gave Lil a tug, a twitch, and Lil stopped and turned round. 
The Kelveys never failed to understand each other. 

Now they hovered at the edge; you couldn’t stop them listening. 
When the little girls turned round and sneered, Lil, as usual, gave her 
silly, shamefaced smile, but our Else only looked. 

And Isabel’s voice, so very proud, went on telling. The carpet made 
a great sensation, but so did the beds with real bedclothes, and the 
stove with an oven door. 

When she finished Kezia broke in. “You’ve forgotten the lamp, 
Isabel” 

“Oh, yes,” said Isabel, “and there’s a teeny little lamp, all made of 
yellow glass, with a white globe that stands on the dining-room table. 
You couldn’t tell it from a real one.” 

“The lamp’s best of all,” cried Kezia. She thought Isabel wasn’t 
making half enough of the little lamp. But nobody paid any atten- 
tion. Isabel was choosing the two who were to come back with them 


133 



KATHERINE MANSFIELD 


that afternoon and see it. She chose Emmie Cole and Lena Logan. But 
when the others knew they were all to have a chance, they couldn’t 
be nice enough to Isabel. One by one they put their arms round Isa- 
bel’s waist and walked her off. They had something to whisper to 
her, a secret. ‘Isabel’s my friend.” 

Only the little Kelveys moved away forgotten; there was nothing 
more for them to hear. 

Days passed, and as more children saw the doll’s house, the fame of 
it spread. It became the one subject, the rage. The one question was, 
“Have you seen Burnells’ doll’s house? Oh, ain’t it lovely I” “Haven’t 
you seen it? Oh, I say!” 

Even the dinner hour was given up to talking about k. The little 
girls sat under the pines eating their thick mutton sandwiches and big 
slabs of johnny cake spread with butter. While always, as near as they 
could get, sat the Kelveys, our Else holding on to Lil, listening too, 
while they chewed their jam sandwiches out of a newspaper soaked 
with large red blobs. . . . 

“Mother,” said Kezia, “can’t I ask the Kelveys just once?” 

“Certainly not, Kezia.” 

“But why not?” 

“Run away, Kezia; you know quite well why not.” 

At last everybody had seen it except them. On that day the subject 
rather flagged. It was the dinner hour. The children stood together 
under the pine trees, and suddenly, as they looked at the Kelveys eat- 
ing out of their paper, always by themselves, always listening, they 
wanted to be horrid to them. Emmie Cole started the whisper. 

“Lii Kelvey’s going to be a servant when she grows up.” 

“O-oh, how awful!” said Isabel Burnell, and she made eyes at 
Emmie. 

Emmie swallowed in a very meaning way and nodded to Isabel as 
she’d seen her mother do on those occasions. 

“It’s true — it’s true — it’s true,” she said. 

Then Lena Logan’s little eyes snapped. “Shall I ask her?” she whis- 
pered. 

“Bet you don’t,” said Jessie May, 

134 



THE DOLL'S HOUSE 


“Pooh, Pm not frightened,” said Lena. Suddenly she gave a little 
squeal and danced in front of the other girls. “Watch! Watch me! 
Watch me now!” said Lena. And sliding, gliding, dragging one foot, 
giggling behind her hand, Lena went over to the Kelveys. 

Lil looked up from her dinner. She wrapped the rest quickly away. 
Our Else stopped chewing. What was coming now? 

“Is it true you’re going to*be a servant when you grow up, Lil Kel- 
vey?” shrilled Lena. 

Dead silence. But instead of answering, Lil only gave her silly, 
shamefaced smile. She didn’t seem to mind the question at all. What 
a sell for Lena! The girls began to titter. 

Lena couldn’t stand that. She put her hands on her hips; she shot 
forward. “Yah, yer father’s in prison!” she hissed, spitefully. 

This was such a marvellous thing to have said that the little girls 
rushed away in a body, deeply, deeply excited, wild with joy. Some 
one found a long rope, and they began skipping. And never did they 
skip so high, run in and out so fast, or do such daring things as on that 
morning. 

In the afternoon Pat called for the Burnell children with the buggy 
and they drove home. There 'were visitors. Isabel and Lottie, who 
liked visitors, went upstairs to change their pinafores. But Kezia 
thieved out at the back. Nobody was about; she began to swing on the 
big white gates of the courtyard. Presently, looking along the road, 
she saw two little dots. They grew bigger, they were coming towards 
her. Now she could see that one was in front and one close behind. 
Now she could see that they were the Kelveys. Kezia stopped swing- 
ing. She slipped off the gate as if she was going to run away. Then 
she hesitated. The Kelveys came nearer, and beside them walked 
their shadows, very long, stretching right across the road with their 
heads in the buttercups. Kezia clambered back on the gate; she had 
made up her mind; she swung out. 

“Hullo,” she said to the passing Kelveys. 

They were so astounded that they stopped. Lil gave her silly smile. 
Our Else stared. 

“You can come and see our doll’s house if you want to,” said Kezia, 
and she dragged one toe on the ground. But at that Lil turned red and 
shook her head quickly. 


135 



KATHERINE MANSFIELD 


“Why not?” asked Kezia. 

Lil gasped, then she said, “Your ma told our ma you wasn’t to speak 
to us.” 

“Oh, well,” said Kezia. She didn’t know what to reply. “It doesn’t 
matter. You can come and see our doll’s house all the same. Come 
on. Nobody’s looking.” 

But Lil shook her head still harder. 

“Don’t you want to? ” asked Kezia. 

Suddenly there was a twitch, a tug at Lil’s skirt. She turned round. 
Our Else was looking at her with big, imploring eyes; she was frown- 
ing; she wanted to go. For a moment Lil looked at our Else very 
doubtfully. But then our Else twitched her skirt again. She started 
forward. Kezia led the way. Like two little stray cats they followed 
across the courtyard to where the doll’s house stood. 

“There it is,” said Kezia. 

There was a pause. Lil breathed loudly, almost snorted; our Else 
was still as a stone. 

“I’U open it for you,” said Kezia kindly. She undid the hook and 
they looked inside. 

“There’s the drawing-room and the dining-room, and that’s the — ” 

“Kezia!” 

Oh, what a start they gave! 

“Kezia!” 

It was Aunt Beryl’s voice. They turned round. At the back door 
stood Aunt Beryl, staring as if she couldn’t believe what she saw. 

“How dare you ask the little Kelveys into the courtyard?” said her 
cold, furious voice. “You loiow as well as I do, you’re not allowed to 
talk to them. Run away, children, run away at once. And don’t come 
back again,” said Aunt Beryl. And she stepped into the yard and 
shooed them out as if they were chickens. 

“Off you go immediately!” she caUed, cold and proud. 

They did not need telling twice. Burning with shame, shrinking to- 
gether, Lil huddling along like her mother, our Else ‘dazed, somehow 
they crossed the big courtyard and squeezed through the white gate. 

“Wicked, disobedient little girl!” said Aunt Beryl bitterly to Kezia, 
and she slammed the doll’s house to. 

The afternoon had been awful. A letter had come from Willie 


136 



THE POLL^S HOUSE 


Brent, a terrifying, threatening letter, saying if she did not meet him 
that evening in Pulman’s Bush, he’d come to the front door and ask 
the reason why! But now that she had frightened those little rats of 
Kelveys and given Kezia a good scolding, her heart felt lighter. That 
ghastly pressure was gone. She went back to the house humming. 

When the Kelveys were well out of sight of Burnells’, they sat down 
to rest on a big red drainpipe by the side of the road. Lil’s cheeks were 
still burning; she took off the hat with the quill and held it on her 
knee. Dreamily they looked over the hay paddocks, past the creek, to 
the group of wattles where Logan’s cows stood waiting to be milked. 
What were their thoughts? 

Presently our Else nudged up close to her sister. But now she had 
forgotten the cross lady. She put out a finger and stroked her sister’s 
quill; she smiled her rare smile. 

seen the little lamp,” she said, softly. 

Then both were silent once more. 


137 






LIFEOFMAPARKER 

When the literary 

gentleman, whose flat old Ma Parker cleaned every Tuesday, opened 
the door to her that morning, he asked after her grandson. Ma Parker 
stood on the doormat inside the dark little hail, and she stretched out 
her hand to help her gentleman shut the door before she replied. “We 
buried ’im yesterday, sir,’^ she said quietly. 

“Oh, dear me! Fm sorry to hear that,” said the literary gentleman 
in a shocked tone. He was in the middle of his breakfast. He wore a 
very shabby dressing-gown and carried a crumpled newspaper in one 
hand. But he felt awkward. He could hardly go back to the warm sit- 
ting-room without saying something — something more. Then because 
these people set such store by funerals he said kindly, “I hope the 
funeral went off all right.” 

“Beg parding, sir?” said old Ma Parker huskily. 

Poor old bird! She did look dashed, “I hope the funeral was a — a — 
success,” said he. Ma Parker gave no answer. She bent her head and 
hobbled off to the kitchen, clasping the old fish bag that held her 
cleaning things and an apron and a pair of felt shoes. The literary gen- 
tleman raised his eyebrows and went back to his breakfast. 

“Overcome, I suppose,” he said aloud, helping himself to the mar- 
malade. 

Ma Parker drew the two jetty spears out of her toque and hung 
it behind the door. She unhooked her worn jacket and hung that up 
too. Then she tied her apron and sat down to take off her boots. To 

Reprinted from The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield by Katherine 
Mansfield, by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright, 1922 , 1937 , by 
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

138 



LIFE OF MA PARKER 


take off her boots or to put them on was an agony to her, but it had 
been an agony for years. In fact, she was so accustomed to the pain 
that her face was drawn and screwed up ready for the twinge before 
she’d so much as untied the laces. That over, she sat back with a sigh 
and softly rubbed her knees. . . . 

“Gran! Gran!” Her little grandson stood on her lap in his button 
boots. He’d just come in from playing in the street. 

“Look what a state you’ve made your gran’s skirt into — ^you wicked 
boy!” 

But he put his arms round her neck and rubbed his cheek against 
hers. 

“Gran, gi’ us a penny!” he coaxed. 

“Be off with you; Gran ain’t got no pennies.” 

“Yes, you ’ave.” 

“No, I ain’t.” 

“Yes, you ’ave. Gi’ us one!” 

Already she was feeling for the old, squashed, black leather purse. 

“Well, what’ll you give your gran?” 

He gave a shy little laugh and pressed closer. She felt his eyelid 
quivering against her cheek. “I ain’t got nothing,” he murmured. . . . 

The old woman sprang up, seized the iron kettle off the gas stove 
and took it over to the sink. The noise of the water drumming in the 
kettle deadened her pain, it seemed. She filled the pail, too, and the 
washing-up bowl. 

It would take a whole book to describe the state of that kitchen. 
During the week the literary gentleman “did” for himself. That is to 
say, he emptied the tea leaves now and again into a jam jar set aside 
for that purpose, and if he ran out of clean forks he wiped over one or 
two on the roller towel Otherwise, as he explained to his friends, 
his “system” was quite simple, and he couldn’t understand why peo- 
ple made all this fuss about housekeeping. 

“You simply dirty everything you’ve got, get a hag in once a week 
to clean up, and the thing’s done.” 

The result looked like a gigantic dustbin. Even the floor was littered 
with toast crusts, envelopes, cigarette ends. But Ma Parker bore him 


139 



KATHERINE MANSFIELD 

no grudge. She pitied the poor young gentleman for having no one 
to look after him. Out of the smudgy little window you could see an 
immense expanse of sad-looking sky, and whenever there were clouds 
they looked very worn, old clouds, frayed at the edges, with holes 
in them, or dark stains like tea. 

While the water was heating, Ma Parker began sweeping the floor. 
“Yes,” she thought, as the broom knocked, “what with one thing and 
another IVe had my share. Fve had a hard life.” 

Even the neighbours said that of her. Many a time, hobbling home 
with her fish bag she heard them, waiting at the corner, or leaning 
over the area railings, say among themselves, “She’s had a hard life, 
has Ma Parker.” And it was so true she wasn’t in the least proud of it. 
It was just as if you were to say she lived in the basement-back at 
Number 27. A hard life! . . . 

At sixteen she’d left Stratford and come up to London as kitch- 
ing-maid. Yes, she was born in Stratford-on-Avon. Shakespeare, sir? 
No, people were always arsking her about him. But she’d never heard 
his name until she saw it on the theatres. 

Nothing remained of Stratford except that “sitting in the fire-place 
of a evening you could see the stars through the chimley,” and 
“Mother always ’ad ’er side of bacon ’anging from the ceiling.” And 
there was something — a bush, there was — ^at the front door, that smelt 
ever so nice. But the bush was very vague. She’d only remembered it 
once or twice in the hospital, when she’d been taken bad. 

That was a dreadful place — ^her first place. She was never allowed 
out. She never went upstairs except for prayers morning and evening. 
It was a fair cellar. And the cook was a cruel woman. She used to 
snatch away her letters from home before she’d read them, and 
throw them in the range because they made her dreamy. . . . And 
the beedles! Would you believe it? — ^until she came to London she’d 
never seen a black beedle. Here Ma always gave a little laugh, as 
though — ^not to have seen a black beedle! Well! It was as if to say 
you’d never seen your own feet 

When that family was sold up she went as “help” to a doctor’s 
house, and after two years there, on the run from morning till night, 
she married her husband. He was a baker. 


140 



LIFE OF MA PARKER 


“A baker, Mrs. Parker!” the literary gentleman would say. For oc- 
casionally he laid aside his tomes and lent an ear, at least, to this prod- 
uct called Life. “It must be rather nice to be married to a baker!” 

Mrs. Parker didn’t look so sure. 

“Such a clean trade,” said the gentleman. 

Mrs. Parker didn’t look convinced. 

“And didn’t you like handing the new loaves to the customers?” 

“Well, sir,” said Mrs. Parker, “I wasn’t in the shop above a great 
deal. We had thirteen little ones and buried seven of them. If it wasn’t 
the ’ospital it was the infirmary, you might say!” 

“You might, indeed, Mrs. Parker!” said the gentleman, shudder- 
ing, and taking up his pen again. 

Yes, seven had gone, and while the six were still small her husband 
was taken ill with consumption. It was flour on the lungs, the doctor 
told her at the time. . . . Her husband sat up in bed with his shirt 
pulled over his head, and the doctor’s finger drew a circle on his back. 

“Now, if we were to cut him open here, Mrs. Parker,” said the doc- 
tor, “you’d find his lungs chock-a-block with white powder. Breathe, 
my good fellow!” And Mrs. Parker never knew for certain whether 
she saw or whether she fancied she saw a great fan of white dust come 
out of her poor dead husband’s lips. ... 

But the struggle she’d had to bring up those six little children and 
keep herself to herself. Terrible it had been! Then, just when they 
were old enough to go to school her husband’s sister came to stop 
with them to help things along, and she hadn’t been there more than 
two months when she fell down a flight of steps and hurt her spine. 
And for five years Ma Parker had another baby — and such a one for 
crying! — ^to look after. Then young Maudie went wrong and took her 
sister Alice with her; the two boys emigrimated, and young Jim went 
to India with the army, and Ethel, the youngest, married a good-for- 
notliing little waiter who died of ulcers the year little Lennie was 
born. And now little Lennie — ^my grandson. . . . 

The piles of dirty cups, dirty dishes, were washed and dried. The 
ink-black knives were cleaned with a piece of potato and finished off 
with a piece of cork. The table was scrubbed, and the dresser and the 
sink that had sardine tails swimming in it. . . . 

He’d never been a strong child — ^never from the first. He’d been 

141 



KATHERINE MANSFIELD 


one of those fair babies that everybody took for a girl. Silvery fair 
curls he had, blue eyes, and a little freckle like a diamond on one side 
of his nose. The trouble she and Ethel had had to rear that child! The 
things out of the newspapers they tried him with! Every Sunday 
morning Ethel would read aloud while Ma Parker did her washing. 

“Dear Sir, — ^Just a line to let you know my little Myrtil was laid out 
for dead. . . . After four bottiis . . . gained 8 lbs. in 9 weeks, and is 
still putting it onP 

And then the egg-cup of ink would come off the dresser and the 
letter would be written, and Ma would buy a postal order on her way 
to work next morning. But it was no use. Nothing made little Lennie 
put it on. Taking him to the cemetery, even, never gave him a colour; 
a nice shake-up in the bus never improved his appetite. 

But he was gran’s boy from the first. . . . 

“Whose boy are you?” said old Ma Parker, straightening up from 
the stove and going over to the smudgy window. And a little voice, 
so warm, so close, it half stifled her — ^it seemed to be in her breast un- 
der her heart — ^laughed out, and said, “I’m gran’s boy!” 

At that moment there was a sound of steps, and the literary gentle- 
man appeared, dressed for walking. 

“Oh, Mrs. Parker, I’m going out.” 

“Very good, sir.” 

“And you’ll find your half-crown in the tray of the inkstand.” 

“Thank you, sir.” 

“Oh, by the way, Mrs. Parker,” said the literary gentleman quickly, 
“you didn’t throw away any cocoa last time you were here — did 
you?” 

“No, sir ” 

“Fery strange. I could have sworn I left a teaspoonful of cocoa in 
the tin.” He broke off. He said softly and firmly, “You’ll always tell 
me when you throw things away— won’t you, Mrs. Parker?” And he 
walked off very well pleased with himself, convinced, in fact, he’d 
shown Mrs. Parker that under his apparent carelessness he was as vigi- 
lant as a woman. 

The door banged. She took her brushes and cloths into the bed- 

142 



LIFE OF MA PARKER 


room. But when she began to make the bed, smoothing, tucking, pat- 
ting, the thought of little Lennie was unbearable. Why did he have to 
suffer so? That’s what she couldn’t understand. Why should a little 
angel child have to arsk for his breath and fight for it? There was no 
sense in making a child suffer like that. 

. . . From Lennie’s little box of a chest there came a sound as 
though something was boiling. There was a great lump of something 
bubbling in his chest that he couldn’t get rid of. When he coughed the 
sweat sprang out on his head; his eyes bulged, his hands waved, and 
the great lump bubbled as a potato knocks in a saucepan. But what 
was more awful than all was when he didn’t cough he sat against the 
pillow and never spoke or answered, or even made as if he heard. 
Only he looked offended. 

“It’s not your poor old gran’s doing it, my lovey,” said old Ma Par- 
ker, patting back the damp hair from his little scarlet ears. But Lennie 
moved his head and edged away. Dreadfully offended with her he 
looked — and solemn. He bent his head and looked at her sideways as 
though he couldn’t have believed it of his gran. 

But at the last . . . Ma Parker threw the counterpane over the bed. 
No, she simply couldn’t think about it. It was too much — she’d had 
too much in her life to bear. She’d borne it up till now, she’d kept her- 
self to herself, and never once had she been seen to cry. Never by a 
living soul. Not even her own children had seen Ma break down. She’d 
kept a proud face always. But now! Lennie gone — ^what had she? She 
had nothing. He was all she’d got from life, and now he was took too. 
Why must it all have happened to me? she wondered. “What have I 
done?” said old Ma Parker. “What have I done?” 

As she said those words she suddenly let fall her brush. She found 
herself in the kitchen. Her miser}^ was so terrible that she pinned on 
her hat, put on her jacket and walked out of the fiat like a person in a 
dream. She did not know what she was doing. She was like a person 
so dazed by the horror of what has happened that he walks away — 
anywhere, as though by walking away he could escape. ... 

It was cold in the street. There was a wind like ice. People went Sit- 
ting by, very fast; the men walked like scissors; the women trod like 

143 



KATHERINE MANSFIELD 


cats. And nobody knew — ^nobody cared. Even if she broke down, if at 
last, after all these years, she were to cry, she’d £nd herself in the 
lock-up as like as not. 

But at the thought of crying it was as though little Lennie leapt in 
his gran’s arms. Ah, that’s what she wants to do, my dove. Gran wants 
to cry. If she could only cry now, cry for a long time, over 
everything, beginning with her first place and the cruel cook, going 
on to the doctor’s, and then the seven little ones, death of her husband, 
the children’s leaving her, and all the years of misery that led up to 
Lennie. But to have a proper cry over all these things would take a 
long time. All the same, the time for it had come. She must do it. She 
couldn’t put it off any longer; she couldn’t wait any more. . . . 
Where could she go? 

“She’s had a hard life, has Ma Parker.” Yes, a hard life, indeed! Her 
chin began to tremble; there was no time to lose. But where? Where? 

She couldn’t go home; Ethel was there. It would frighten Ethel out 
of her life. She couldn’t sit on a bench anywhere; people would come 
asking her questions. She couldn’t possibly go back to the gentleman’s 
fiat; she had no right to cry in strangers’ houses. If she sat on some 
steps a policeman would speak to her. 

Oh, wasn’t there anywhere where she could hide and keep herself 
to herself and stay as long as she liked, not disturbing anybody, and 
nobody worrying her? Wasn’t there anywhere in the world where she 
could have her cry out — at last? 

Ma Parker stood, looking up and down. The icy wind blew out her' 
apron into a balloon. And now it began to rain. There was nowhere. 

KATHERINE MANSFIELD was born Kathleen Beauchamp, in 
Wellington, New Zealand, on October 14, 1888, into a family that had 
been in Australia and New Zealand for three generations. She spent 
most of her early life at Karori, a village near Wellington. From the 
age of fourteen to seventeen she, together with her two sisters, at- 
tended Queen’s College in Harley Street, London. During these years 
she continued her writing, which she had begun before she was ten, 
edited the college magazine, and became a good player on the ’cello. 
On her return to New Zealand in 1906, she found herself dissatisfied 
with provincial life; she longed for London. Two years later her fam- 
ily gave her an allowance which permitted her to return to England. 
She left New Zealand on July 9, 19CB, never to return, but in later 

144 



LIFE OF MA PARKER 


years her memories of her life there, particularly at Karori, became 
one of the most fruitful sources of her fiction. 

Her writing during the remainder of her short life established her 
reputation for finesse and artistry. In 1910-1911 she contributed to 
The New Age, An unfortunate and short-lived marriage in 1909 to 
George Bowden, an actor, was followed by a journey to Germany, 
where she bore a still-born child, not the offspring of her husband. 
Several stories based on her experiences in Germany were published 
in In a German Tension (1911). She contributed to Rhythm, a literary 
magazine edited by John Middleton Murry (whom she married in 
1918) and Michael Sadleir; later she and Murry edited it. For its last 
three issues the title became The Blue Review, When it ceased publi- 
cation in July, 1913, Katherine Mansfield could find no editor who 
would accept her stories. She, Murry, and D. H. Lawrence issued in 
1915 three numbers of the magazine Signature, entirely written by 
the three authors. Between 1915 and 1919 three of her stories were 
printed in English periodicals; one. Prelude (1918), was published by 
the Hogarth Press; and one, Je 7ie Parle pas Frangais (1919), was pri- 
vately printed by Murry and his brother. After Murry became editor 
of the Athe7%aeu?n in 1919, she contributed (1919-1920) reviews of 
fiction. From these reviews, later collected under the title Novels and 
Novelists (1930), and from her Journal (1927), Letters (1928), and 
Scrapbook (1940), all published after her death, one can best learn her 
critical views on fiction. Bliss (1921) and A Garden Party and Other 
Stories (1922) established with the public the reputation that had been 
steadily growing among the discerning. But she had little time to en- 
joy success. From 1917, when an attack of pleurisy had led to tubercu- 
losis, she had been ill Stays in southern France, Cornwall, and 
Switzerland failed to restore her health, and she died at Fontainebleau, 
near Paris, on January 9, 1923, 

The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield (1937), edited by John 
Middleton Murry, contains seventy-three completed stories and fifteen 
unfinished sketches; a number of other sketches are in her Journal and 
Scrapbook, Probably all her published fiction has no greater bulk than 
the average novel by Dickens or Thackeray. Yet in this relatively 
small compass she has ranged widely and profoundly in human ex- 
perience: the trials, the pleasures, the ecstasies of childhood (“The 
Doll’s House,” “The Voyage”); the disillusion and pathos of middle 
age (“Miss Brill”); and the poignancy of old age and death (“Life 
of Ma Parker”). Subtle human relationships do not escape her (“A 
Dill Pickle”). With her, observation is the beginning, but by the end 
of a scene or situation the reader has had indirectly suggested to him, 
through her masterful use of implication rather than statement, the 
feeling, the emotion that was always so important to her in a work of 

145 



KATHERINE MANSFIELD 


fiction, whether hers or another’s. Plot mattered little in her work, 
but genuineness of emotion and truth to life were in her judgment 
indispensable. The strength of this conviction is emphasized by her 
opinion that George Moore’s Esther Waters, an objective, natural- 
istic novel, cannot be considered great because it lacks emotion. Her 
sensitive perception, emphasis upon emotion subtly suggested, and love 
of truth, down to the most minute detail, suggest a similarity to her 
favorite author, Chekhov. Her best stories are based upon her child- 
hood experiences, made vivid in her memory years afterwards as the 
result of affectionate reminiscence with her brother shortly before his 
death in World War I. The village school, the joys and disappoint- 
,ments of childhood are created as she evokes the past. Almost as effec- 
tive and as genuine are her stories of poverty and suffering in the city. 
Less successful, because they are dated and slightly forced or artifi- 
cial, are her stories of sophisticated urban life. 

“Life of Ma Parker” appeared in The Garden Party and Other 
Stories (1922); “The Doll’s House” in The Dove'^s Nest and Other 
Stories (1923). 

The best introduction to the intimate art of Katherine Mansfield is 
a reading of her own journals, scrapbooks, letters, and reviews. Her 
husband, John Middleton Murry, has written with sympathy and un- 
derstanding of her and her work. Some of his best comments may be 
found in the introduction to her Short Stories (mentioned above) 
and in his essay “The Isolation of Katherine Mansfield,” in Katherine 
Mansfield a7id Other Literary Portraits (1949), pp. 7-15. His autobiog- 
raphy, Between Two Worlds (1935), contains a frank discussion of 
his relationships with her. Ruth E. Mantz and Murry, in The Life of 
Katherme Mansfield (1933), give an excellent account of her early life. 
An essay by Arnold Whitridge, “Katherine Mansfield,” in the Sewanee 
Review, xlviii (April-June, 1940), 256-272, contains new information 
from hitherto unpublished letters; it also corrects some of the ques- 
tionable emphases in the work of John Middleton Murry. A recent 
study by Sylvia Berkman, Katherine Mansfield: A Critical Study 
(1951), is especially recommended. 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

The Doll’s House 

1 , Are the principal children in this story individualized? Sup- 
port your answer by analyzing each. Are they like children whom you 
know? Why do those who are acceptable to the Burnells, after they 
have all seen the doll’s house, suddenly turn on the Kelveys? 

2. How much do you learn about the adults in the village? Does 
the author give this information directly, or indirectly, or in both 

146 



LIFE OF MA PARKER 


ways? Explain. Why does Aunt Beryl feel relieved after she has driven 
the Kelveys away? Do you feel that the introduction of Aunt Beryl’s 
worry is artificial? Why is it mentioned? 

3. Comment on Eise’s final remark, “I seen the little lamp.” Is 
it pathetic? Is it effective in the story? Why is it more fitting for her 
than for her sister to make the comment? 

4. Structure or form may be determined by many different con- 
siderations. Some stories have a structure that is imposed chiefly by 
the author’s desire to make action interesting or exciting; in other 
words, to create an excellent plot. Others have character or a social 
theme as the architectonic element. What determines the structure — 
the pattern of events — ^in this story? Justify your answer. 

Life of Ma Parker 

1. What actions and speeches of the literary man reveal his char- 
acter? Specifically, what do you learn about him when he asks about 
the cocoa? Comment on the significance which is lent that speech by 
the context in which it appears in the story. 

2. Describe Ma Parker’s character. She has lost several of her 
own children in the past; why is she now so affected by the loss of 
Lennie? What keeps her from crying just anywhere? As well as you 
can tell, has it been her character or her environment which has made 
her life a failure? Has the last sentence of the story symbolic* value? 
Explain. 

3. The organization of events is somewhat unusual in that the 
story is developed in the present but is interrupted by frequent mem- 
ories. Are you disturbed by these interruptions? Why, in your opinion, 
is the story not told chronologically, beginning with Ma Parker’s life 
in Stratford? Because the narrative line in the present gives form to 
the story, compresses it within limits? Because her relations with the 
literary man symbolize vividly her relations with the world? For 
other reasons? Discuss this matter. 

4. Can you discern influences of naturalism* in this story? Ex- 
plain. But does Miss Mansfield here seem to you objective? * Does she 
perhaps sentimentalize? * Discuss. 

5. What seems to you to be the point in writing or in reading a 
story like this? Consider the question from esthetic, social, and psy- 
chological points of view. 


147 




MAR f A CONCEPCION 

Maria Concepcion 

walked carefully, keeping to the middle of the white dusty road, 
where the maguey thorns and the treacherous curved spines of organ 
cactus had not gathered so profusely. She wouid have enjoyed resting 
for a moment in the dark shade by the roadside, but she had no time 
to waste drawing cactus needles from her feet. Juan and his chief 
would be waiting for their food in the damp trenches of the buried 
city. 

She carried about a dozen living fowls slung over her right shoulder, 
their feet fastened together. Half of them fell upon the flat of her 
back, the balance dangled uneasily over her breast. They wriggled 
their benumbed and swollen legs against her neck, they twisted their 
stupefied eyes and peered into her face inquiringly. She did not see 
them or think of them. Her left arm was tired with the weight of the 
food basket, and she was hungry after her long morning’s work. 

Her straight back outlined itself strongly under her clean bright 
blue cotton rebozo. Instinctive serenity softened her black eyes, 
shaped Hke almonds, set far apart, and tilted a bit endwise. She walked 
with the free, natural, guarded ease of the primitive woman carrying 
an unborn child. The shape of her body was easy, the swelling life was 
not a distortion, but the right inevitable proportions of a woman. She 
was entirely contented. Her husband was at work and she was on her 
way to market to sell her fowls. 

From Flowering Judas and Other Stories, copyright, 1930, 1935, by Kath- 
erine Anne Porter. Reprinted by permission of Harcourr, Brace and Com- 
pany, Inc. 

148 



MARI'A CONCEPCiOH 


Her small house sat half-way up a shallow hill, under a clump of 
pepper-trees, a wall of organ cactus enclosing it on the side nearest to 
the road. Now she came down into the valley, divided by the narrow 
spring, and crossed a bridge of loose stones near the hut where Maria 
Rosa the beekeeper lived with her old godmother, Lupe the medicine 
woman. Maria Concepcion had no faith in the charred owl bones, the 
singed rabbit fur, the cat entrails, the messes and ointments sold by 
Lupe to the ailing of the village. She was a good Christian, and drank 
simple herb teas for headache and stomachache, or bought her reme- 
dies bottled, with printed directions that she could not read, at the 
drugstore near the city market, where she went almost daily. But she 
often bought a jar of honey from young Maria Rosa, a pretty, shy 
child only fifteen years old. 

Maria Concepcion and her husband, Juan Villegas, were each a little 
past their eighteenth year. She had a good reputation with the neigh- 
bors as an energetic religious woman who could drive a bargain to the 
end. It was commonly known that if she wished to buy a new rebozo 
for herself or a shirt for Juan, she could bring out a sack of hard silver 
coins for the purpose. 

She had paid for the license, nearly a year ago, the potent bit of 
stamped paper which permits people to be married in the church. She 
had given money to the priest before she and Juan walked together up 
to the altar the Monday after Holy Week. It had been the adventure 
of the villagers to go, three Sundays one after another, to hear the 
banns called by the priest for Juan de Dios Villegas and Maria Con- 
cepcion Manriquez, who were actually getting married in the church, 
instead of behind it, which was the usual custom, less expensive, and as 
binding as any other ceremony. But Maria Concepcion was always as 
proud as if she owned a hacienda. 

She paused on the bridge and dabbled her feet in the water, her eyes 
resting themselves from the sun-rays in a fixed gaze to the far- 
off mountains, deeply blue under their hanging drift of clouds. It came 
to her that she would like a fresh crust of honey. The delicious aroma 
of bees, their slow thrilling hum, awakened a pleasant desire for a flake 
of sweetness in her mouth. 

“If I do not eat it now, I will mark my child,” she thought, peering 
through the crevices in the thick hedge of cactus that sheered up na- 


149 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


kedly, like bared knife blades set protectingly around the small clear- 
ing. The place was so silent she doubted if Maria Rosa and Lupe were 
at home. 

The leaning jacal of dried rush-withes and corn sheaves, bound to 
tall saplings thrust into the earth, roofed with yellowed maguey leaves 
flattened and overlapping like shingles, hunched drowsy and fragrant 
in the warmth of noonday. The hives, similarly made, were scattered 
towards the back of the clearing, like small mounds of clean vegetable 
refuse. Over each mound there hung a dusty golden shimmer of bees. 

A light gay scream of laughter rose from behind the hut; a man’s 
short laugh joined in. “Ah, hahahaha!” went the voices together high 
and low, like a song. 

“So Maria Rosa has a man!” Maria Concepcion stopped short, smil- 
ing, shifted her burden slightly, and bent forward shading her eyes to 
see more clearly through the spaces of the hedge. 

Maria Rosa ran, dodging between beehives, parting two stunted jas- 
mine bushes as she came, lifting her knees in swift leaps, looking over 
her shoulder and laughing in a quivering, excited way. A heavy jar, 
swung to her wrist by the handle, knocked against her thighs as she 
ran. Her toes pushed up sudden spurts of dust, her half-raveled braids 
showered around her shoulders in long crinkled wisps. 

Juan Villegas ran after her, also laughing strangely, his teeth set, 
both rows gleaming behind the small soft black beard growing 
sparsely on his lips, his chin, leaving his brown cheeks girl-smooth. 
When he seized her, he clenched so hard her chemise gave way and 
ripped from her shoulder. She stopped laughing at this, pushed him 
away and stood silent, trying to pull up the torn sleeve with one hand. 
Her pointed chin and dark red mouth moved in an uncertain way, as 
if she wished to laugh again; her long black lashes flickered with the 
quick-moving lights in her hidden eyes. 

Maria Concepcion did not stir nor breathe for some seconds. Her 
forehead was cold, and yet boiling water seemed to be pouring slowly 
along her spine. An unaccountable pain was in her knees, as if they 
were broken. She was afraid Juan and Maria Rosa would feel her eyes 
fixed upon them and would find her there, unable to move, spying 
upon them. But they did not pass beyond the enclosure, nor even 
glance towards the gap in the wall opening upon the road. 

ISO 



MARIA CONCEPCION 


Juan lifted one of Maria Rosa’s loosened braids and slapped her neck 
with it playfully. She smiled softly, consentingly. Together they 
moved back through the hives of honey-comb. Maria Rosa balanced 
her jar on one hip and swung her long full petticoats with every step. 
Juan flourished his wide hat back and forth, walking proudly as a 
game-cock. 

Maria Concepcion came out of the heavy cloud which enwrapped 
her head and bound her throat, and found herself walking onward, 
keeping the road without knowing it, feeling her way delicately, her 
ears strumming as if all Maria Rosa’s bees had hived in them. 
Her careful sense of duty kept her moving toward the buried city 
where Juan’s chief, the American archeologist, was taking his midday 
rest, waiting for his food. 

Juan and Maria Rosa! She burned all over now, as if a layer of tiny 
flg-cactus bristles, as cruel as spun glass, had crawled under her skin. 
She wished to sit down quietly and wait for her death, but not until 
she had cut the throats of her man and that girl who were laughing 
and kissing under the cornstalks. Once when she was a young girl she 
had come back from market to find her jacal burned to a pile of ash 
and her few silver coins gone. A dark empty feeling had filled her; she 
kept moving about the place, not believing her eyes, expecting it all to 
take shape again before her. But it was gone, and though she knew an 
enemy had done it, she could not find out who it was, and could only 
curse and threaten the air. Now here was a worse thing, but she knew 
her enemy. Maria Rosa, that sinful girl, shameless! She heard herself 
saying «a harsh, true word about Maria Rosa, saying it aloud as if she 
expected someone to agree with her: “Yes, she is a whore! She has no 
right to live.” 

At this moment the gray untidy head of Givens appeared over the 
edges of the newest trench he had caused to be dug in his field of ex- 
cavations. The long deep crevasses, in which a man might stand with- 
out being seen, lay crisscrossed like orderly gashes of a giant scalpel. 
Nearly all of the men of the community worked for Givens, helping 
him to uncover the lost city of their ancestors. They worked all the 
year through and prospered, digging every day for those small clay 
heads and bits of pottery and fragments of painted wails for which 
there was no good use on earth, being all broken and encrusted with 

151 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


clay. They themselves could make better ones, perfectly stout and 
new, which they took to town and peddled to foreigners for real 
money. But the unearthly delight *of the chief in finding these worn- 
out things was an endless puzzle. He would fairly roar for joy 
at times, waving a shattered pot or a human skull above his head, 
shouting for his photographer to come and make a picture of this! 

Now he emerged, and his young enthusiast’s eyes welcomed Maria 
Concepcion from his old-man face, covered with hard wrinkles and 
burned to the color of red earth. ‘T hope you’ve brought me a nice fat 
one.” He selected a fowl from the bunch dangling nearest him 
as Maria Concepcion, wordless, leaned over the trench. “Dress it for 
me, there’s a good girl. I’ll broil it.” 

Maria Concepcion took the fowl by the head, and silently, swiftly 
drew her knife across its throat, twisting the head off with the casual 
firmness she might use with the top of a beet. 

“Good God, woman, you do have nerve,” said Givens, watching 
her. “I can’t do that. It gives me the creeps.” 

“My home country is Guadalajara,” explained Maria Concepcion, 
without bravado, as she picked and gutted the fowl. 

She stood and regarded Givens condescendingly, that diverting 
white man who had no woman of his own to cook for him, and more- 
over appeared not to feel any loss of dignity in preparing his own 
food. - He squatted now, eyes squinted, nose wrinkled to avoid the 
smoke, turning the roasting fowl busily on a stick. A mysterious man, 
undoubtedly rich, and Juan’s chief, therefore to be respected, to be 
placated. 

“The tortillas are fresh and hot, sehor,” she murmured gently. 
“With your permission I will now go to market.” 

“Yes, yes, run along; bring me another of these tomorrow,” Givens 
turned his head to look at her again. Her grand manner sometimes 
reminded him of royalty in exile. He noticed her unnatural paleness, 
“The sun is too hot, eh?” he asked. 

“Yes, sir. Pardon me, but Juan will be here soon?” 

“He ought to be here now. Leave his food. The others will eat it.” 

She moved away; the blue of her rebozo became a dancing spot in 
the heat v’^aves that rose from the gray-red soil. Givens liked his In- 


152 



MARfA CONCEPCION 


dians best when he could feel a fatherly indulgence for their primitive 
childish ways. He told comic stories of Juan’s escapades, of how often 
he had saved him, in the past five years, from going to jail, and even 
from being shot, for his varied and always unexpected misdeeds. 

am never a minute too soon to get him out of one pickle or an- 
other,” he would say. “Well, he’s a good worker, and I know how to 
manage him.” 

After Juan was married, he used to twit him, with exactly the right 
shade of condescension, on his many infidelities to Maria Concepcion. 
“She’ll catch you yet, and God help you!” he was fond of saying, and 
Juan would laugh with immense pleasure. 

It did not occur to Maria Concepcion to tell Juan she had found 
him out. During the day her anger against him died, and her anger 
against Maria Rosa grew. She kept saying to herself, “When I was a 
young girl like Maria Rosa, if a man had caught hold of me so, I 
would have broken my jar over his head.” She forgot completely that 
she had not resisted even so much as Maria Rosa, on the day that Juan 
had first taken hold of her. Besides she had married him afterwards in 
the church, and that was a very different thing. 

Juan did not come home that night, but went away to war and 
Maria Rosa went with him. Juan had a rifle at his shoulder and two 
pistols at his belt. Maria Rosa wore a rifle also, slung on her back along 
with the blankets and the cooking pots. They joined the nearest de- 
tachment of troops in the field, and Maria Rosa marched ahead with 
the battalion of experienced women of war, which went over the 
crops like locusts, gathering provisions for the army. She cooked with 
them, and ate with them what was left after the men had eaten. After 
battles she went out on the field with the others to salvage clothing 
and ammunition and guns from the slain before they should begin to 
swell in the heat. 

There was no particular scandal in the village. People shrugged, 
grinned. It was far better that they were gone. The neighbors went 
around saying that Maria Rosa was safer in the army than she would 
be in the same village with Maria Concepcion. 

Maria Concepcion did not weep when Juan left her; and when the 

153 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


baby was born, and died within four days, she did not weep. ‘‘She is 
mere stone,” said old Lupe, who went over and offered charms to 
preserve the baby, 

“May you rot in hell with your charms,” said Maria Concepcion. 

If she had not gone so regularly to church, lighting candles before 
the saints, kneeling with her arms spread in the form of a cross for 
hours at a time, and receiving holy communion every month, there 
might have been talk of her being devil-possessed, her face was so 
changed and blind-looking. But this was impossible when, after ail, 
she had been married by the priest. It must be, they reasoned, that she 
was being punished for her pride. They decided that this was the true 
cause for everything: she was altogether too proud. So they pitied her. 

During the year that Juan and Maria Rosa were gone Maria Con- 
cepcion sold her fowls and looked after her garden and her sack of 
hard coins grew. Lupe had no talent for bees, and the hives did not 
prosper. She began to blame Maria Rosa for running away, and to 
praise Maria Concepcion for her behavior. She used to see Maria Con- 
cepcion at the market or at church, and she always said that no one 
could tell by looking at her now that she was a woman who had such 
a heavy grief. 

“I pray God everything goes well with Maria Concepcion from this 
out,” she would say, “for she has had her share of trouble.” 

When some idle person repeated this to the deserted woman, she 
went down to Lupe’s house and stood within the clearing and called 
to the medicine woman, who sat in her doorway stirring^a mess of her 
infallible cure for sores: “Keep your prayers to yourself, Lupe, or of- 
fer them for others who need them. I will ask God for what I want 
in this world.” 

“And will you get it, you think, Maria Concepcion?” asked Lupe, 
tittering cruelly and smelling the wooden mixing spoon. “Did you 
pray for what you have now?” 

Afterward everyone noticed that Maria Concepcion went oftener 
to church, and even seldomer to the village to talk with the other 
women as they sat along the curb, nursing their babies and eating fruit, 
at the end of the market-day. 

“She is wrong to take us for enemies,” said old Soledad, who was a 


154 



MARfA CONCEPCSON 


thinker and a peace-maker. “All women have these troubles. Well, we 
should suffer together.” 

But Maria Concepcion lived alone. She was gaunt, as if something 
were gnawing her away inside, her eyes were sunken, and she would 
not speak a word if she could help it. She worked harder than ever 
and her butchering knife was scarcely ever out of her hand. 

Juan and Maria Rosa, disgusted with military life, came home one 
day without asking permission of anyone. The field of war had un- 
rolled itself, a long scroll of vexations, until the end had frayed out 
within twenty miles of Juan’s village. So he and Maria Rosa, now lean 
as a wolf, burdened with a child daily expected, set out with no fare- 
wells to the regiment and walked home. 

They arrived one morning about daybreak. Juan was picked up on 
sight by a group of military police from the small barracks on the 
edge of town, and taken to prison, where the officer in charge told 
him with impersonal cheerfulness that he would add one to a catch of 
ten waiting to be shot as deserters the next morning. 

Maria Rosa, screaming and falling on her face in the road, was 
taken under the armpits by two guards and helped briskly to her jacal, 
now sadly run down. She was received with professional importance 
by Lupe, who helped the baby to be born at once. 

Limping with foot soreness, a layer of dust concealing his fine new 
clothes got mysteriously from somewhere, Juan appeared before the 
captain at the barracks. The captain recognized him as head digger for 
his good friend Givens, and dispatched a note to Givens saying: “I 
am holding the person of Juan Villegas awaiting your further dispo- 
sition.” 

When Givens showed up Juan was delivered to him with the ur- 
gent request that nothing be made public about so humane and sensi- 
ble an operation on the part of military authority. 

Juan walked out of the rather stifling atmosphere of the drumhead 
court, a definite air of swagger about him. His hat, of unreasonable 
dimensions and embroidered with silver thread, hung over one eye- 
brow, secured at the back by a cord of silver dripping with bright 
blue tassels. His shirt was of a checkerboard pattern in green and 


155 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


black, his white cotton trousers were bound by a belt of yellow 
leather tooled in red. His feet were bare, full of stone bruises, and 
sadly ragged as to toenails. He removed his cigarette from the corner 
of his full-lipped wide mouth. He removed the splendid hat. His black 
dusty hair, pressed moistly to his forehead, sprang up suddenly in a 
cloudy thatch on his crown. He bowed to the officer, who appeared 
to be gazing at a vacuum. He swung his arm wide in a free circle up- 
soaring towards the prison window, where forlorn heads poked over 
the window sill, hot eyes following after the lucky departing one. 
Two or three of the heads nodded, and a half dozen hands were 
flipped at him in an effort to imitate his own casual and heady 
manner. 

Juan kept up this insufferable pantomime until they rounded the 
first clump of fig-cactus. Then he seized Givens’ hand and burst into 
oratory. ‘‘Blessed be the day your servant Juan Villegas first came 
under your eyes. From this day my life is yours without condition, 
ten thousand thanks with all my heart!” 

“For God’s sake stop playing the fool,” said Givens irritably. “Some 
day I’m going to be five minutes too late.” 

“Well, it is nothing much to be shot, my chief — certainly you know 
I was not afraid — ^but to be shot in a drove of deserters, against a 
cold wall, just in the moment of my homecoming, by the order of 
that . , 

Glittering epithets tumbled over one another like explosions of a 
rocket. All the scandalous analogies from the animal and vegetable 
worlds were applied in a vivid, unique and personal way to the life, 
loves, and family history of the officer who had just set him free. 
When he had quite cursed himself dry, and his nerves were soothed, 
he added: “With your permission, my chief!” 

“What will Maria Concepcion say to all this?” asked Givens. “You 
are very informal, Juan, for a man who was married in the church.” 

Juan put on his hat. 

“Oh, Maria Concepcion! That’s nothing. Look, my chief, to be 
married in the church is a great misfortune for a man. After that he 
is not himself any more. How can that woman complain when I do 
not drink even at fiestas enough to be really drunk? I do not beat her; 

156 



never, never. We were always at peace. 1 say to her, Come here, and 
she comes straight. I say, Go there, and she goes quickly. Yet some- 
times I looked at her and thought. Now I am married to that woman 
in the church, and I felt a sinking inside, as if something were lying 
heavy on my stomach. With Maria Rosa it is all different. She is not 
silent; she talks. When she talks too much, I slap her and say. Silence, 
thou simpleton! and she weeps. She is just a girl with whom I do as I 
please. You know how she used to keep those clean little bees in their 
hives? She is like their honey to me. I swear it. I would not harm 
Maria Concepcion because I am married to her in the church; but 
also, my chief, I will not leave Maria Rosa, because she pleases me 
more than any other woman.” 

“Let me tell you, Juan, things haven’t been going as well as you 
think. You be careful. Some day Maria Concepcion will just take 
your head off with that carving knife of hers. You keep that in mind.” 

Juan’s expression was the proper blend of masculine triumph and 
sentimental melancholy. It was pleasant to see himself in the role of 
hero to two such desirable women. He had just escaped from the 
threat of a disagreeable end. His clothes were new and handsome, and 
they had cost him just nothing. Maria Rosa had collected them for 
him here and there after battles. He was walking in the early sun- 
shine, smelling the good smells of ripening cactus-figs, peaches, and 
melons, of pungent berries dangling from the pepper-trees, and the 
smoke of his cigarette under his nose. He was on his way to civilian 
life with his patient chief. His situation was ineffably perfect, and he 
swallowed it whole. 

“My chief,” he addressed Givens handsomely, as one man of the 
world to another, “women are good things, but not at this moment. 
With your permission, I will now go to the village and eat. My God, 
how I shall eat! Tomorrow morning very early I will come to the 
buried city and work like seven men. Let us forget Marla Concepcion 
and Maria Rosa. Each one in her place. I will manage them when the 
time comes.” 

News of Juan’s adventure soon got abroad, and Juan found many 
friends about him during the morning. They frankly commended his 
way of leaving the army. It was in itself the act of a hero. The new 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


hero ate a great deal and drank somewhat, the occasion being better 
than a feast-day. It was almost noon before he returned to visit Maria 
Rosa. 

He found her sitting on a clean straw mat, rubbing fat on her three- 
hour-old son. Before this felicitous vision Juan’s emotions so twisted 
him that he returned to the village and invited every man in the 
“Death and Resurrection” pulque shop to drink with him. 

Having thus taken leave of his balance, he started back to Maria 
Rosa, and found himself unaccountably in his own house, attempting 
to beat Maria Concepcion by way of reestablishing himself in his legal 
household. 

Maria Concepcion, knowing all the events of that unhappy day, was 
not in a yielding mood, and refused to be beaten. She did not scream 
nor implore; she stood her ground and resisted; she even struck 
at him. Juan, amazed, hardly knowing what he did, stepped back and 
gazed at her inquiringly through a leisurely whirling film which 
seemed to have lodged behind his eyes. Certainly he had not even 
thought of touching her. Oh, well, no harm done. He gave up, turned 
away, half-asleep on his feet. He dropped amiably in a shadowed cor- 
ner and began to snore. 

Maria Concepcion, seeing that he was quiet, began to bind the 
legs of her fowls. It was market-day and she was late. She fumbled 
and tangled the bits of cord in her haste, and set off across the 
plowed fields instead of taking the accustomed road. She ran with a 
crazy panic in her head, her stumbling legs. Now and then she would 
stop and look about her, trying to place herself, then go on a few steps, 
until she realized that she was not going towards the market. 

At once she came to her senses completely, recognized the thing 
that troubled her so terribly, was certain of what she wanted. She sat 
down quietly under a sheltering thorny bush and gave herself over to 
her long devouring sorrow. The thing which had for so long squeezed 
her whole body into a tight dumb knot of suffering suddenly broke 
with shocking violence. She jerked with the involuntary recoil of one 
who receives a blow, and the sweat poured from her skin as if the 
wounds of her whole life were shedding their salt ichor. Drawing her 
rebozo over her head, she bowed her forehead on her updrawn knees, 
and sat there in deadly silence and immobility. From time to time she 


158 



MARfA CONCEPCION 

lifted her head where the sweat formed steadily and poured down 
her face, drenching the front of her chemise, and her mouth had the 
shape of crying, but there were no tears and no sound. Ail her being 
was a dark confused memory of grief burning in her at night, of 
deadly baffled anger eating at her by day, until her very tongue tasted 
bitter, and her feet were as heavy as if she were mired in the muddy 
roads during the time of rains. 

After a great while she stood up and threw the rebozo off her face, 
and set out walking again. 

Juan awakened slowly, with long yawns and grumblings, alternated 
with short relapses into sleep full of visions and clamors. A blur of 
orange light seared his eyeballs when he tried to unseal his lids. 
There came from so'mewhere a low voice weeping without tears, say- 
ing meaningless phrases over and over. He began to listen. He tugged 
at the leash of his stupor, he strained to grasp those words which ter- 
rified him even though he could not quite hear them. Then he came 
awake with frightening suddenness, sitting up and staring at the long 
sharpened streak of light piercing the corn-husk walls from the level 
disappearing sun. 

Maria Concepcion stood in the doorway, looming colossally tall to 
his betrayed eyes. She was talking quickly, and calling his name. Then 
he saw her clearly. 

“God’s name I” said Juan, frozen to the marrow, “here I am facing 
my death!” for the long knife she wore habitually at her belt was in 
her hand. But instead, she threw it away, clear from her, and got 
down on her knees, crawling toward him as he had seen her crawl 
many times toward the shrine at Guadalupe Villa. He watched her 
approach with such horror that the hair of his head seemed to be lift- 
ing itself away from him. Falling forward upon her face, she hud- 
dled over him, lips moving in a ghostly whisper. Her words became 
clear, and Juan understood them all. 

For a second he could not move nor speak. Then he took her head 
between both his hands, and supported her in this way, saying 
swiftly, anxiously reassuring, almost in a babble: 

“Oh, thou poor creature! Oh, madwoman! Oh, my Maria Concep- 
cion, unfortunate! Listen, . . . Don’t be afraid. Listen to me! I will 


159 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 

hide thee away, I thy own man will protect thee! Quiet! Not a 
sound!” 

Trying to collect himself, be held her and cursed under his breath 
for a few moments in the gathering darkness. Maria Concepcion bent 
over, face almost on the ground, her feet folded under her, as if she 
would hide behind him. For the first time in his life Juan was aware 
of danger. This was danger. Maria Concepcion would be dragged 
away between two gendarmes, with him following helpless and un- 
armed, to spend the rest of her days in Belen Prison, maybe. Danger! 
The night swarmed with threats. He stood up and dragged her up 
with him. She was silent and perfectly rigid, holding to him with re- 
sistless strength, her hands stiffened on his arms. 

“Get me the knife,” he told her in a whisper. She obeyed, her feet 
slipping along the hard earth floor, her shoulders straight, her arms 
close to her side. He lighted a candle. Maria Concepcion held the 
knife out to him. It was stained and dark even to the handle with dry- 
ing blood. 

He frowned at her harshly, noting the same stains on her chemise 
and hands. 

“Take off thy clothes and wash thy hands,” he ordered. He washed 
the knife carefully, and threw the water wide of the doorway. She 
watched him and did likewise with the bowl in which she had bathed. 

“Light the brasero and cook food for me,” he told her in the same 
peremptory tone. He took her garments and went out. When he re- 
turned, she was wearing an old soiled dress, and was fanning the fire 
in the charcoal burner. Seating himself cross-legged near her, he 
stared at her as at a creature unknown to him, who bewildered him 
utterly, for whom there was no possible explanation. She did not turn 
her head, but kept silent and still, except for the movements of her 
strong hands fanning the blaze which cast sparks and small jets of 
white smoke, flaring and dying rhythmically with the motion of the 
fan, lighting her face and darkening it by turns. 

Juan's voice barely disturbed the silence: “Listen to me carefully, 
and tell me the truth, and when the gendarmes come here for us, thou 
shalt have nothing to fear. But there will be something for us to settle 
between us afterward.” 


160 



MARIA CONCEPCION 


The light from the charcoal burner shone in her eyes; a yellow 
phosphorescence glimmered behind the dark iris. 

“For me everything is settled now,” she answered, in a tone so ten- 
der, so grave, so heavy with suffering, that Juan felt his vitals con- 
tract. He wished to repent openly, not as a man, but as a very small 
child. He could not fathom her, nor himself, nor the mysterious for- 
tunes of life grown so instantly confused where all had seemed so 
gay and simple. He felt too that she had become invaluable, a woman 
without equal among a million women, and he could not tell why. He 
drew an enormous sigh that rattled in his chest. 

“Yes, yes, it is all settled. I shall not go away again. We must stay 
here together.” 

Whispering, he questioned her and she answered whispering, and 
he instructed her over and over until she had her lesson by heart. The 
hostile darkness of the night encroached upon them, flowing over the 
narrow threshold, invading their hearts. It brought with it sighs and 
murmurs, the pad of secretive feet in the near-by road, the sharp stac- 
cato whimper of wind through cactus leaves. All these familiar, once 
friendly cadences were now invested with sinister terrors; a dread, 
formless and uncontrollable, took hold of them both. 

“Light another candle,” said Juan, loudly, in too resolute, too sharp 
a tone. “Let us eat now.” 

They sat facing each other and ate from the same dish, after their 
old habit- Neither tasted what they ate. With food half-way to his 
mouth, Juan listened. The sound of voices rose, spread, widened at the 
turn of the road along the cactus wall. A spray of lantern light shot 
through the hedge, a single voice slashed the blackness, ripped the 
fragile layer of silence suspended above the hut. 

“Juan Villegas!” 

“Pass, friends!” Juan roared back cheerfully. 

They stood in the doorway, simple cautious gendarmes from the 
village, mixed-bloods themselves with Indian sympathies, well known 
to all the community. They flashed their lanterns almost apologet- 
ically upon the pleasant, harmless scene of a man eating supper with 
his wife. 

“Pardon, brother,” said the leader. “Someone has killed the woman 

161 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


Maria Rosa, and we must question her neighbors and friends,” He 
paused, and added with an attempt at severity, “Naturally!” 

“Naturally,” agreed Juan. “You know that I was a good friend of 
Maria Rosa. This is bad news.” 

They all went away together, the men walking in a group, Maria 
Concepcion following a few steps in the rear, near Juan. No one 
spoke. 

The two points of candlelight at Maria Rosa’s head fluttered un- 
easily; the shadows shifted and dodged on the stained darkened walls. 
To Maria Concepcion everything in the smothering enclosing room 
shared an evil restlessness. The watchful faces of those called as wit- 
nesses, the faces of old friends, were made alien by the look of specu- 
lation in their eyes. The ridges of the rose-colored rebozo thrown 
over the body varied continually, as though the thing it covered was 
not perfectly in repose. Her eyes swerved over the body in the open 
painted coffin, from the candle tips at the head to the feet, jutting up 
thinly, the small scarred soles protruding, freshly washed, a mass of 
crooked, half-healed wounds, thompricks and cuts of sharp stones. 
Her gaze went back to the candle flame, to Juan’s eyes warning her, 
to the gendarmes talking among themselves. Her eyes would not be 
controlled. 

With a leap that shook her her gaze settled upon the face of Maria 
Rosa. Instantly her blood ran smoothly again: there was nothing to 
fear. Even the restless light could not give a look of life to that fixed 
countenance. She was dead. Maria Concepcion felt her muscles give 
way softly; her heart began beating steadily without effort. She knew 
no more rancor against that pitiable thing, lying indifferently in its 
blue coffin under the fine silk rebozo. The mouth drooped sharply at 
the corners in a grimace of weeping arrested half-way. The brows 
were distressed; the dead flesh could not cast off the shape of its last 
terror. It was all finished. Maria Rosa had eaten too much honey and 
had had too much love. Now she must sit in hell, crying over her sins 
and her hard death forever and ever. 

Old Lupe’s cackling voice arose. She had spent the morning helping 
Maria Rosa, and it had been hard work. The child had spat blood the 

162 



MARI'A CONCEPCION 


moment it was born, a bad sign. She thought then that bad luck would 
come to the house. Well, about sunset she was in the yard at the back 
of the house grinding tomatoes and peppers. She had left mother and 
babe asleep. She heard a strange noise in the house, a choking and 
smothered calling, like someone wailing in sleep. Well, such a thing is 
only natural. But there followed a light, quick, thudding sound — 

‘‘Like the blows of a fist?” interrupted an officer. 

“No, not at ail like such a thing.” 

“How do you know?” 

“I am well acquainted with that sound, friends,” retorted Lupe. 
“This was something else.” 

She was at a loss to describe it exactly. A moment later, there came 
the sound of pebbles rolling and slipping under feet; then she knew 
someone had been there and was running away. 

“Why did you wait so long before going to see?” 

“I am old and hard in the joints,” said Lupe. “I cannot run after peo- 
ple. I walked as fast as I could to the cactus hedge, for it is only by 
this way that anyone can enter. There was no one in the road, sir, no 
one. Three cows, with a dog driving them; nothing else. When I got 
to Maria Rosa, she was lying all tangled up, and from her neck to her 
middle she was full of knife-holes. It was a sight to move the Blessed 
Image Himself! Her eyes were — ” 

“Never mind. Who came oftenest to her house before she went 
away? Did you know her enemies?” 

Lupe’s face congealed, closed. Her spongy skin drew into a network 
of secretive wrinkles. She turned withdrawn and expressionless eyes 
upon the gendarmes. 

“I am an old woman. I do not see well. I cannot hurry on my feet. 
I know no enemy of Maria Rosa. I did not see anyone leave the clear- 
mg. 

“You did not hear splashing in the spring near the bridge?” 

“No, sir.” 

“Why, then, do our dogs follow a scent there and lose it?” 

“God only knows, my friend. I am an old wo — ” 

“Yes. How did the footfalls sound?” 

“Like the tread of an evik spirit!” Lupe broke forth in a swelling 

163 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


oracular tone that startled them. The Indians stirred uneasily, glanced 
at the dead, then at Lupe. They half expected her to produce the evil 
spirit among them at once. 

The gendarme began to lose his temper. 

“No, poor unfortunate; I mean, were they heavy or light? The foot- 
steps of a man or of a woman? Was the person shod or barefoot?” 

A glance at the listening circle assured Lupe of their thrilled at- 
tention. She enjoyed the dangerous importance of her situation. She 
could have ruined that Maria Concepcion with a word, but it was 
even sweeter to make fools of these gendarmes who went about spy- 
ing on honest people. She raised her voice again. What she had not 
seen she could not describe, thank God! No one could harm her 
because her knees were stiif and she could not run even to seize a 
murderer. As for knowing the difference between footfalls, shod or 
bare, man or woman, nay, between devil and human, who ever heard 
of such madness? 

“My eyes are not ears, gentlemen,” she ended grandly, “but upon 
my heart I swear those footsteps fell as the tread of the spirit of evil!” 

“Imbecile!” yapped the leader in a shrill voice. “Take her away, one 
of you! 'Now, Juan Villegas, tell me — ” 

Juan told his story patiently, several times over. He had returned to 
his wife that day. She had gone to market as usual. He had helped 
her prepare her fowls. She had returned about mid-afternoon, they 
had talked, she had cooked, they had eaten, nothing was amiss. Then 
the gendarmes came with the news about Maria Rosa. That was all. 
Yes, Maria Rosa had run away with him, but there had been no bad 
blood between him and his wife on this account, nor between his wife 
and Maria Rosa. Everybody knew that his wife was a quiet woman. 

Maria Concepcion heard her own voice answering without a break. 
It was true at first she was troubled when her husband went away, but 
after that she had not worried about him. It was the way of men, she 
believed. She was a church-married woman and knew her place. Well, 
he had come home at last. She had gone to market, but had come back 
early, because now she had her man to cook for. That was aU. 

Other voices broke in. A toothless old man said: “She is a woman 
of good reputation among us, and Maria Rosa was not.” A smiling 
young mother, Anita, baby at breast, said: “If no one thinks so, how 


164 



can you accuse her? It was the loss of her child and not of her hus- 
band that changed her so.” Another: “Maria Rosa had a strange life, 
apart from us. How do we know who might have come from another 
place to do her evil?” And old Soledad spoke up boldly: “When I saw 
Maria Concepcion in the market today, I said, ‘Good luck to you, 
Maria Concepcion, this is a happy day for youl’ ” and she gave Maria 
Concepcion a long easy stare, and the smile of a born wise-woman. 

Maria Concepcion suddenly felt herself guarded, surrounded, up- 
borne by her faithful friends. They were around her, speaking for her, 
defending her, the forces of life were ranged invincibly with her 
against the beaten dead. Maria Rosa had thrown away her share of 
strength in them, she lay forfeited among them. Maria Concepcion 
looked from one to the other of the circling, intent faces. Their eyes 
gave back reassurance, understanding, a secret and mighty sympathy. 

The gendarmes were at a loss. They, too, felt that sheltering wail 
cast impenetrably around her. They were certain she had done it, and 
yet they could not accuse her. Nobody could be accused; there was 
not a shred of true evidence. They shrugged their shoulders and 
snapped their fingers and shufiied their feet. Well, then, good night 
to everybody. Many pardons for having intruded. Good health! 

A small bundle lying against the wall at the head of the coffin 
squirmed like an eel. A wail, a mere sliver of sound, issued. Maria 
Concepcion took the son of Maria Rosa in her arms. 

“He is mine,” she said clearly, “I will take him with me.” 

No one assented in words, but an approving nod, a bare breath of 
complete agreement, stirred among them as they made way for her. 

Marla Concepcion, carrying the child, followed Juan from the 
clearing. The hut was left with its lighted candles and a crowd of old 
women who would sit up all night, drinking coffee and smoking and 
telling ghost stories, 

Juan’s exaltation had burned out. There was not an ember of excite- 
ment left in him. He was tired. The perilous adventure was over. 
Maria Rosa had vanished, to come no more forever. Their days of 
marching, of eating, of quarreling and makifig love between battles, 
were all over. Tomorrow he would go back to dull and endless labor, 
he must descend into the trenche's of the buried city as Marla Rosa 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


must go into her grave. He felt his veins fill up with bitterness, with 
black unendurable melancholy. Oh, Jesus! what bad luck overtakes a 
man! 

Well, there was no way out of it now. For the moment he craved 
only to sleep. He was so drowsy he could scarcely guide his feet. The 
occasional light touch of the woman at his elbow was as unreal, as 
ghostly as the brushing of a leaf against his face. He did not know 
why he had fought to save her, and now he forgot her. There was 
nothing in him except a vast blind hurt like a covered wound. 

He entered the jacal, and without waiting to light a candle, threw 
off his clothing, sitting just within the door. He moved with lagging, 
half-awake hands, to strip his body of its heavy finery. With a long 
groaning sigh of relief he fell straight back on the floor, almost in- 
stantly asleep, his arms flung up and outward. 

Maria Concepcion, a small clay jar in her hand, approached the gen- 
tle little mother goat tethered to a sapling, which gave and yielded as 
she pulled at the rope’s end after the farthest reaches of grass about 
her. The kid, tied up a few feet away, rose bleating, its feathery fleece 
shivering in the fresh wind. Sitting on her heels, holding his tether, 
she allowed him to suckle a few moments. Afterward — all her move- 
ments very deliberate and even — she drew a supply of milk for the 
child. 

She sat against the wall of her house, near the doorway. The child, 
fed and asleep, was cradled in the hollow of her crossed legs. The 
silence overfilled the world, the skies flowed down evenly to the rim 
of the valley, the stealthy moon crept slantwise to the shelter of the 
mountains. She felt soft and warm all over; she dreamed that the 
newly born child was her own, and she was resting deliciously. 

Maria Concepcion could hear Juan’s breathing. The sound vapored 
from the low doorway, calmly; the house seemed to be resting after a 
burdensome day. She breathed, too, very slowly and quietly, each in- 
spiration saturating her with repose. The child’s Hght, faint breath was 
a mere shadowy moth of sound in the silver air. The night, the earth 
under her, seemed to swell and recede together with a limitless, un- 
hurried, benign breathifig. She drooped and closed her eyes, feeling 
the slow rise and fail within her own body. She did not know what it 
was, but it eased her all through. Even as she was falling asleep, head 

166 



MARIA CONCEPCION 


bowed over the child, she was still aware of a strange, wakeful hap- 
piness. 


KATHERINE ANNE PORTER, a direct descendant of Daniel 
Boone, was born in Indian Creek, Texas, on May 15, 1894. Her formal 
education in convents was supplemented in a rather haphazard fashion 
by miscellaneous reading. She has traveled extensively and has lived 
in New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Mexico City, Bermuda, Paris, 
and Berlin. In 1933 she married Eugene Pressly, then with the Amer- 
ican consular service in Paris, but was divorced from him. In 1938 she 
married Albert Russell Erskine, Jr., then Professor of English at Loui- 
siana State University. In addition to her writing, Miss Porter is inter- 
ested in music; she has published a collection of French songs. 

Since the age of three and a half she has felt a compulsion to write, 
but she has destroyed most of what she has written. The total bulk of 
her published writing is small — ^but distinguished. Although a few of 
her short stories were printed in 1920, her first book, Flowering Judas, 
containing six stories, did not appear until 1930, and then in a limited 
edition. In 1935 the work was reissued, with four additional stories, in 
a trade edition. Fale Horse, Pale Rider (1939) is a collection of three 
novelettes. The Leaning Tower and Other Stories (1944) contains nine 
additional stories. In 1942 appeared her introduction to a translation 
of a Mexican picaresque novel. The Itching Parrot, by Jose Joaquin 
Fernandez de Lizardi. Of critical interest, this introduction also re- 
veals Miss Porter’s sympathy with the freedom-loving “Mexican 
Thinker” and shows her ability to appreciate a boisterous picaresque 
tale, quite different from her own carefully polished fiction. In addi- 
tion to these works, she has printed a few other stories and excerpts 
from a novel on which she has been working for several years. She has 
also written a great number of reviews. Her review of Willa Gather 
on Writing in the New York Times Book Review, September 25, 
1949, praises qualities in Willa Gather’s life and style that readers often 
associate with Miss Porter and her work: unobtrusiveness and integ- 
rity, simplicity and directness, a quiet awareness of the demands of art. 

That Miss Porter is extremely sensitive to the world about her, that 
she is both stylist and thinker, is made clear in her introduction to the 
Modern Library edition of Flowering Judas and Other Stories (1940). 
Of these, her “first fruits,” she says: “Looking at them again, it is pos- 
sible still to say that I do not repent of them; if they were not yet 
written, I should have to write them still. They were done with in- 
tention and in firm faith. ... To any speculations from interested 
sources as to why there were not more of them, I can answer simply 
and truthfully that I was not one of those who could flourish in the 

167 



KATHERINE ANNE PORTER 


conditions of the past two decades, , . . We none of us flourished in 
those times, artists or not, for art, like the human life of which it is the 
truest voice, thrives best by daylight in a green and growing world. 
For myself, and I was not alone, all the conscious and recollected years 
of my life have been lived to this day under the heavy threat of world 
catastrophe, and most of the energies of my mind and spirit have been 
spent in the effort to grasp the meaning of those threats, to trace them 
to their sources and to understand the logic of this majestic and ter- 
rible failure of the life of man in the Western world.” Her faith in the 
arts and in art serves as an anchorage: “The arts do live continuously, 
and they live literally by faith. . . . They cannot be destroyed alto- 
gether because they represent the substance of faith and the only 
reality.” From this quotation one may see why Miss Porter is inter- 
ested in the “Mexican Thinker,” politics, and world conditions, as well 
as literature and art. 

Miss Porter’s stories are richly varied in subject matter and style. 
Often they deal with confused mental states, violence, unrest, hallu- 
cinations, dreams. Perhaps her greatest gift is her ability to reveal in- 
ternal reality — ^that is, the thoughts and the mind of a character. 
External details, though often used with colorful effect and rare sug- 
gestiveness, are frequently subordinated to the subtly differentiated 
vacillations of her characters or their confused searching for values. 
Like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, she often uses the stream-of- 
consciousness technique.* One of her critics, however, has suggested 
that she is most successful when she is most objective.* She is espe- 
cially successful in portraying women: delicate, sensitive, almost frag- 
ile, they have hidden strength of character, resiliency, and indomitable 
will. 

She shifts easily from an unpretentious and idyllic account of child- 
hood to a breezy and lusty story of political bossism and corruption. 
Some of her stories, though apparently simple in style and subject mat- 
ter, yet disturb the reader. Partly because they seem so effortless and 
simple, they quietly and insistently call for reflective analysis — ^the 
story, each paragraph, each sentence, sometimes a word. Her prose 
style, whatever the subject may be, is an evocatively beautiful and 
flexible instrument, whether she is dealing with the simple and the 
obvious or the exotic. Such prose is unusual in our time: “The barber 
shop was small and clean, wrapped in white towels, shining with 
mirrors and full of warm soapy steam” (“The Leaning Tower”). Ob- 
servation and concrete detail are here combined with musical rhythm. 

“Maria Concepcion” is reprinted from Flowering Judas and Other 
Stories (1935). 

Comparatively little has been written about Miss Porter’s work. 
The three following essays are helpful: Lodwick Hartley, “Katherine 

168 



MARI'A CONCEPCION 


Anne Porter,” Sewanee Review, xlviii (April-June, 1940), 206-216; 
Margaret Marshall, “Writers in the Wilderness . . . Katherine Anne 
Porter,” Nation, cl (April 13, 1940), 473-475; Vernon A. Young, “The 
Art of Katherine Anne Porter,” American Thought, 1941 (1947), re- 
printed from New Mexico Quarterly Review, xv (Autumn, 1945), 
326-34L 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Why is Maria Concepcion a memorable character? 

2. Is she presented with objectivity? Do you know what she is 
really like, or do you know only her external characteristics? Do you 
know her thoughts? her values in life? If you do, what technique 
does the author use to reveal them to you — dialogue, remarks by 
others, or presentation of the thoughts in the character’s mind? 

3. Characterize Juan and Maria Rosa. How is Maria Concepcion 
different from Maria Rosa? Which one is better suited to be Juan’s 
wife? 

4. What does Givens contribute to the story? Examine his 
speeches and the scenes in which he appears. Wha't is his attitude to- 
ward the other characters? How does he differ from the others? Do 
you think the author uses him for contrast with the others? 

- 5. How do you explain the behavior of the people in the village? 

Are they dishonest or unscrupulous? What are their values in life? 
Does Givens sympathize v^ith them and with their values, or is he de- 
tached? What appears to be the author’s attitude toward these values? 

6. Is action or character of greater significance in this story? 

7. How does the story unfold or develop? Are the events pre- 
sented in chronological order? Are large segments of time ignored? 
Why? Is anything lost by ignoring these passages of time? Is there a 
backward and forward movement in time? Explain. Because it covers 
a considerable amount of time and has considerable action, would the 
story have been better as a novel? 


169 



MIRIAM 

For several years, Mrs. H. T. Miller had lived 
alone in a pleasant apartment (two rooms with kitchenette) in a re- 
modeled brownstone near the East River. She was a widow: Mr. H. T. 
Miller had left a reasonable amount of insurance. Her interests were 
narrow, she had no friends to speak of, and she rarely journeyed far- 
ther than the corner grocery. The other people in the house never 
seemed to notice her: her clothes were matter-of-fact, her hair iron- 
gray, clipped and casually waved; she did not use cosmetics, her fea- 
tures were plain and inconspicuous, and on her last birthday she was 
sixty-one. Her activities were seldom spontaneous: she kept the two 
rooms immaculate, smoked an occasional cigarette, prepared her own 
meals and tended a canary. 

Then she met Miriam. It was snowing that night. Mrs. Miller had 
finished drying the supper dishes and was thumbing through an after- 
noon paper when she saw an advertisement of a picture playing at a 
neighborhood theater. The title soimded good, so she struggled into 
her beaver coat, laced her galoshes and left the apartment, leaving one 
light burning in the foyer: she found nothing more disturbing than a 
sensation of darkness. 

The snow was fine, falling gently, not yet making an impression on 
the pavement. The wind from the river cut only at street crossings. 
Mrs. Miller hurried, her head bowed, oblivious as a mole burrowing a 
blind path. She stopped at a drugstore and bought a package of pep- 
permints. 

A long line stretched in front of the box ofiice; she took her place 
at the end. There would be (a tired voice groaned) a short wait for 

From A Tree of Nighty by Truman Capote. Reprinted by permission of 
Random House, Inc. Copyright, 1945, by Truman Capote, 

170 



MIRIAM 


ail seats. Mrs. Miller rummaged in her leather handbag till she col- 
lected exactly the correct change for admission. The line seemed to 
be taking its own time and, looking around for some distraction, she 
suddenly became conscious of a little girl standing under the edge of 
the marquee. 

Her hair was the longest and strangest Mrs. Miller had ever seen: 
absolutely silver-white, like an albino’s. It flowed waist-length in 
smooth, loose lines. She was thin and fragilely constructed. There was 
a simple, special elegance in the way she stood with her thumbs in the 
pockets of a tailored plum-velvet coat. 

Mrs. Miller felt oddly excited, and when the little girl glanced to- 
ward her, she smiled warmly. The little girl walked over and said, 
“Would you care to do me a favor?” 

“Fd.be glad to, if I can,” said Mrs. Miller. 

“Oh, it’s quite easy. I merely want you to buy a ticket for me; they 
won’t let me in otherwise. Here, I have the money.” And gracefully 
she handed Mrs. Miller two dimes and a nickel. 

They went into the theater together. An usherette directed them 
to a lounge; in twenty minutes the picture would be over. 

“I feel just like a genuine criminal,” said Mrs. Miller gaily, as she sat 
down. “I mean that sort of thing’s against the law, isn’t it? I do hope 
I haven’t done the wrong thing. Your mother knows where you are, 
dear? I mean she does, doesn’t she? ” 

The little girl said nothing. She unbuttoned her coat and folded it 
across her lap. Her dress underneath was prim and dark blue. A gold 
chain dangled about her neck, and her fingers, sensitive and musical- 
looking, toyed with it. Examining her more attentively, Mrs. Miller 
decided the truly distinctive feature was not her hair, but her eyes; 
they were hazel, steady, lacking any childlike quality whatsoever and, 
because of their size, seemed to consume her small face. 

Mrs. Miller offered a peppermint. “What’s your name, dear?” 

“Miriam,” she said, as though, in some curious way, it were infor- 
mation akeady familiar. 

“Why, isn’t that funny — ^my name’s Miriam, too. And it’s not a ter- 
ribly common name either. Now, don’t tell me your last name’s 
Miller!” 

“Just Miriam.” 


171 



TRUMAN CAPOTE 


“But isn’t that funny? ” 

“Moderately,” said Miriam, and rolled the peppermint on her 
tongue, 

Mrs, Miller flushed and shifted uncomfortably. “You have such a 
large vocabulary for such a little girl.” 

“Do I?” 

“Well, yes,” said Mrs. Miller, hastily changing the topic to: “Do you 
like the movies? ” 

“I really wouldn’t know,” said Miriam. “I’ve never been before.” 

Women began filling the lounge; the rumble of the newsreel bombs 
exploded in the distance. Mrs. Miller rose, tucking her purse under 
her arm. “I guess I’d better be running now if I want to get a seat,” 
she said. “It was nice to have met you.” 

Miriam nodded ever so slightly. 

It snowed all week. Wheels and footsteps moved soundlessly on the 
sjtreet, as if the business of living continued secretly behind a pale but 
impenetrable curtain. In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, 
only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the 
rooms, deadening and hushing the city. At all hours it was necessary 
to keep a lamp lighted, and Mrs. Miller lost track of the days: Friday 
was no difl^erent from Saturday and on Sunday she went to the gro- 
cery: closed, of course. 

That evening she scrambled eggs and fixed a bowl of tomato soup. 
Then, after putting on a flannel robe and cold-creaming her face, she 
propped herself up in bed with a hot-water bottle under her feet. 
She was reading the Times when the doorbell rang. At first she 
thought it must be a mistake and whoever it was would go away. But 
it rang and rang and settled to a persistent buzz. She looked at the 
clock: a little after eleven; it did not seem possible, she was always 
asleep by ten. 

Climbing out of bed, she trotted barefoot across the living room. 
“Fm coming, please be patient.” The latch was caught; she turned it 
this way and that way and the bell never paused an instant. “Stop it,” 
she cried. The bolt gave way and she opened the door an inch. “What 
in heaven’s name?” 

“Hello,” said Miriam. 


172 



MIRIAM 


“Oh . . . why, hello,” said Mrs, Miller, stepping hesitantly into the 
hall. “You’re that little girl.” 

“I thought you’d never answer, but I kept my finger on the button; 
I knew you were home. Aren’t you glad to see me?” 

Mrs. Miller did not know what to say. Miriam, she saw, wore the 
same plum-velvet coat and now she had also a beret to match; her 
white hair was braided in two shining plaits and looped at the ends 
with enormous white ribbons. 

“Since I’ve waited so long, you could at least let me in,” she said. 

“It’s awfully late. . . .” 

Miriam regarded her blankly. “What difference does that make? Let 
me in. It’s cold out here and I have on a silk dress.” Then, with a gen- 
tle gesture, she urged Mrs. Miller aside and passed into the apartment. 

She dropped her coat and beret on a chair. She was indeed wearing 
a silk dress. White silk. White silk in February. The skirt was beauti- 
fully pleated and the sleeves long; it made a faint rustle as she strolled 
about the room. “I like your place,” she said. “I like the rug, blue’s my 
favorite color.” She touched a paper rose in a vase on the coffee table. 
“Imitation,” she commented wanly. “How sad. Aren’t imitations sad?” 
She seated herself on the sofa, daintily spreading her skirt. 

“What do you want?” asked Mrs. Miller. 

“Sit down,” said Miriam. “It makes me nervous to see people stand.” 

Mrs. Miller sank to a hassock. “What do you want? ” she repeated. 

“You know, I don’t think you’re glad I came.” 

For a second time Mrs. Miller was without an answer; her hand 
motioned vaguely. Miriam giggled and pressed back on a mound of 
chintz pillows. Mrs. Miller observed that the girl was less pale than 
she remembered; her cheeks were flushed. 

“How did you know where I lived?” 

Miriam frowned. “That’s no question at all. What’s your name? 
What’s mine?” 

“But I’m not listed in the phone book.” 

“Oh, let’s talk about something else.” 

Mrs. Miller said, “Your mother must be insane to let a child like 
you wander around at all hours of the night — and in such ridiculous 
clothes. She must be out of her mind.” 

Miriam got up and moved to a comer where a covered bird cage 

173 



TRUMAN CAPOTE 


hung from a ceiling chain. She peeked beneath the cover. “It’s a ca- 
nary,” she said. “Would you mind if I woke him? I’d like to hear him 
sing.” 

“Leave Tommy alone,” said Mrs. Miller, anxiously. “Don’t you dare 
wake him.” 

“Certainly,” said Miriam. “But I don’t see why I can’t hear him 
sing.” And then, “Have you anything to eat? I’m starving! Even milk 
and a jam sandwich would be fine.” 

“Look,” said Mrs. Miller, arising from the hassock, “look — ^if I make 
some nice sandwiches will you be a good child and run along home? 
It’s past midnight, I’m sure.” 

“It’s snowing,” reproached Miriam. “And cold and dark.” 

“Well, you shouldn’t have come here to begin with,” said Mrs. 
Miller, struggling to control her voice. “I can’t help the weather. If 
you want anything to eat you’ll have to promise to leave.” 

Miriam brushed a braid against her cheek. Her eyes were thought- 
ful, as if weighing the proposition. She turned toward the bird cage. 
“Very well,” she said, “I promise.” 

How old is she? Ten? Eleven? Mrs. Miller, in the kitchen, unsealed 
a jar of strawberry preserves and cut four slices of bread. She poured 
a glass of milk and paused to light a cigarette. A 72 d why has she come? 
Her hand shook as she held the match, fascinated, till it burned her 
finger. The canary was singing; singing as he did in the morning and 
at no other time. “Miriam,” she called, “Miriam, I told you not to dis- 
turb Tommy.” There was no answer. She called again; aU she heard 
was the canary. She inhaled the cigarette and discovered she had 
lighted the cork-tip end and — oh, really, she mustn’t lose her temper. 

She carried the food in on a tray and set it on the coffee table. She 
saw first that the bird cage still wore its night cover. And Tommy 
was singing. It gave her a queer sensation. And no one was in the 
room. Mrs. Miller went through an alcove leading to her bedroom; 
at the door she caught her breath. 

“What are you doing?” she asked. 

Miriam glanced up and in her eyes there was a look that was not 
ordinary. She was standing by the bureau, a jewel case opened before 
her. For a minute she studied Mrs. Miller, forcing their eyes to meet, 

174 



MIRIAM 


and she smiled. “There’s nothing good here,” she said. “But I like this.” 
Her hand held a cameo brooch. “It’s charming.” 

“Suppose — perhaps you’d better put it back,” said Mrs. Miller, feel- 
ing suddenly the need of some support. She leaned against the door 
frame; her head was unbearably heavy; a pressure weighted the 
rhythm of her heartbeat. The light seemed to flutter defectively. 
“Please, child — a gift from my husband . . 

“But it’s beautiful and I want it,” said Miriam. it to me^ 

As she stood, striving to shape a sentence which would somehow 
save the brooch, it came to Mrs. Miller there was no one to whom 
she might turn; she was alone; a fact that had not been among her 
thoughts for a long time. Its sheer emphasis was stunning. But here in 
her own room in the hushed snow-city were evidences she could not 
ignore or, she knew with startling clarity, resist. 

Miriam ate ravenously, and when the sandwiches and milk were 
gone, her fingers made cobweb movements over the plate, gathering 
crumbs. The cameo gleamed on her blouse, the blonde profile like 
a trick reflection of its wearer. “That was very nice,” she sighed, 
“though now an almond cake or a cherry would be ideal. Sweets are 
lovely, don’t you think?” 

Mrs. Miller was perched precariously on the hassock, smoking a 
cigarette. Her hair net had slipped lopsided and loose strands straggled 
down her face. Her eyes were stupidly concentrated on nothing and 
her cheeks were mottled in red patches, as though a fierce slap had 
left permanent marks. 

“Is there a candy — a cake?” 

Mrs. Miller tapped ash on the rug. Her head swayed slightly as she 
tried to focus her eyes. “You promised to leave if I made the sand- 
wiches,” she said. 

“Dear me, did I?” 

“It was a promise and I’m tired and I don’t feel well at all.” 

“Mustn’t fret,” said Miriam. “I’m only teasing.” 

She picked up her coat, slung it over her arm, and arranged her 
beret in front of a mirror. Presently she bent close to Mrs. Miller and 
whispered, “Kiss me good night.” 

“Please — I’d rather not,” said Mrs. Miller. 


175 



TRUMAN CAPOTE 


Miriam lifted a shoulder, arched an eyebrow. “As you like,” she 
said, and went directly to the coffee table, seized the vase containing 
the paper roses, carried it to where the hard surface of the floor lay 
bare, and hurled it downward. Glass sprayed in all directions and she 
stamped her foot on the bouquet. 

Then slowly she walked to the door, but before closing it she 
looked back at Mrs, Miller with a slyly innocent curiosity. 

Mrs. Miller spent the next day in bed, rising once to feed the canary 
and drink a cup of tea; she took her temperature and had none, yet 
her dreams were feverishly agitated; their unbalanced mood lingered 
even as she lay staring wide-eyed at the ceiling. One dream threaded 
through the others like an elusively mysterious theme in a complicated 
symphony, and the scenes it depicted were sharply outlined, as though 
sketched by a hand of gifted intensity: a small girl, wearing a bridal 
gown and a wreath of leaves, led a gray procession down a mountain 
path, and among them there was unusual silence till a woman at the 
rear asked, “Where is she taking us?” “No one knows,” said an old 
man marching in front. “But isn’t she pretty?” volunteered a third 
voice. “Isn’t she like a frost flower ... so shining and white?” 

Tuesday morning she woke up feeling better; harsh slats of sun- 
light, slanting through Venetian blinds, shed a disrupting light on 
her unwholesome fancies. She opened the window to discover a 
thawed, miid-as-spring day; a sweep of clean new clouds crumpled 
against a vastly blue, out-of-season sky; and across the low line of 
rooftops she could see the river and smoke curving from tugboat 
stacks in a warm wind. A great silver truck plowed the snow-banked 
street, its machine sound humming on the air. 

After straightening the apartment, she went to the grocer’s, cashed 
a check and continued to Schrafft’s where she ate breakfast and 
chatted happily with the waitress. Oh, it was a wonderful day — 
more like a holiday — and it would be so foolish to go home. 

She boarded a Lexington Avenue bus and rode up to Eighty-sixth 
Street; it was here that she had decided to do a little shopping. 

She had no idea what she wanted or needed, but she idled along, 
intent only upon the passers-by, brisk and preoccupied, who gave hec 
a disturbing sense of separateness. 


176 



MIRIAM 


It was while waiting at the comer of Third Avenue that she saw 
the man: an old man, bowiegged and stooped under an armload of 
bulging packages; he wore a shabby brown coat and a checkered cap. 
Suddenly she realized they were exchanging a smile: there was noth- 
ing friendly about this smile, it was merely two cold flickers of rec- 
ognition. But she was certain she had never seen him before. 

He was standing next to an El pillar, and as she crossed the street 
he turned and followed. He kept quite close; from the corner of her 
eye she watched his reflection wavering on the shopwindows. 

Then in the middle of the block she stopped and faced him. He 
stopped also and cocked his head, grinning. But what could she say? 
Do? Here, in broad daylight, on Eighty-sixth Street? It was useless 
and, despising her own helplessness, she quickened her steps. 

Now Second Avenue is a dismal street, made from scraps and ends; 
part cobblestone, part asphalt, part cement; and its atmosphere of de- 
sertion is permanent. Mrs. Miller walked five blocks without meeting 
anyone, and all the while the steady crunch of his footfalls in the snow 
stayed near. And when she came to a florist’s shop, the sound was still 
with her. She hurried inside and watched through the glass door as 
the old man passed; he kept his eyes straight ahead and didn’t slow 
his pace, but he did one strange, telling thing: he tipped his cap. 

“Six white ones, did you say?” asked the florist. “Yes,” she told him, 
“white roses.” From there she went to a glassware store and selected 
a vase, presumably a replacement for the one Miriam had broken, 
though the price was intolerable and the vase itself (she thought) 
grotesquely vulgar. But a series of tmaccountable purchases had be- 
gun, as if by prearranged plan: a plan of which she had not the least 
knowledge or control. 

She bought a bag of glazed cherries, and at a place called the Knick- 
erbocker Bakery she paid forty cents for six almond cakes. 

Within the last hour the weather had turned cold again; like blurred 
lenses, winter clouds cast a shade over the sun, and the skeleton of an 
early dusk colored the sky; a damp mist mixed with the wind and the 
voices of a few children who romped high on mountains of gutter 
snow seemed lonely and cheerless. Soon the first flake fell, and when 
Mrs. Miller reached the brownstone house, snow was falling in a 
swift screen and foot tracks vanished as they were printed. 


177 



TRUMAN CAPOTE 


The white roses were arranged decoratively in the vase. The glazed 
cherries shone on a ceramic plate. The almond cakes, dusted with 
sugar, awaited a hand. The canary fluttered on its swing and picked at 
a bar of seed. 

At precisely five the doorbell rang. Mrs. Miller knew who it was. 
The hem of her housecoat trailed as she crossed the floor. “Is that 
you?” she called. 

“Naturally,” said Miriam, the word resounding shrilly from the 
hall. “Open this door.” 

“Go away,” said Mrs. Miller. 

“Please hurry ... I have a heavy package.” 

“Go away,” said Mrs. Miller. She returned to the living room, 
lighted a cigarette, sat down and calmly listened to the buzzer; on and 
on and on. “You might as well leave. I have no intention of letting you 
in,” 

Shortly the beU stopped. For possibly ten minutes Mrs. Miller did 
not move. Then, hearing no sound, she concluded Miriam had gone. 
She tiptoed to the door and opened it a sliver; Miriam was half-reclin- 
ing atop a cardboard box with a beautiful French doll cradled in her 
arms. 

“Really, I thought you were never coming,” she said peevishly. 
“Here, help me get this in, it’s awfully heavy.” 

It was not spell-like compulsion that Mrs. Miller felt, but rather a 
curious passivity; she brought in the box, Miriam the doU. Miriam 
curled up on the sofa, not troubling to remove her coat or beret, and 
watched disinterestedly as Mrs. Miller dropped the box and stood 
trembling, trying to catch her breath. 

“Thank you,” she said. In the daylight she looked pinched and 
drawn, her hair less luminous. The French doll she was loving wore 
an exquisite powdered wig and its idiot glass eyes sought solace in 
Miriam’s. “I have a surprise,” she continued. “Look into my box.” 

Kneeling, Mrs. Miller parted the flaps and lifted out another doll; 
then a blue dress which she recalled as the one Miriam had worn that 
first night at the theater; and of the remainder she said, “It’s all 
clothes. Why?” 

“Because Fve come to live with you,” said Miriam, twisting a cherry 
stem. “Wasn’t it nice of you to buy me the cherries . . . 

178 



MIRIAM 


“But you can’t! For God’s sake go away — go away and leave me 
alone!” 

. . and the roses and the almond cakes? How really wonderfully 
generous. You know, these cherries are delicious. The last place I lived 
was with an old man; he was terribly poor and we never had good 
things to eat. But I think I’ll be happy here.” She paused to snuggle 
her doll closer. “Now, if you’ll just show me where to put my 
things . . 

Mrs. Miller’s face dissolved into a mask of ugly red lines; she began 
to cry, and it was an unnatural, tearless sort of weeping, as though, 
not having wept for a long time, she had forgotten how. Carefully 
she edged backward till she touched the door. 

She fumbled through the hall and down the stairs to a landing be- 
low. She pounded frantically on the door of the first apartment she 
came to; a short, red-headed man answered and she pushed past him. 
“Say, what the hell is this?” he said. “Anything wrong, lover?” asked 
a young woman who appeared from the kitchen, drying her hands. 
And it was to her that Mrs. Miller turned. 

“Listen,” she cried, “Fm ashamed behaving this way but— well, 
Fm Mrs. H. T. Miller and I live upstairs and . . She pressed her 
hands over her face. “It sounds so absurd. . . .” 

The woman guided her to a chair, while the man excitedly rattled 
pocket change. “Yeah?” 

“I live upstairs and there’s a little girl visiting me, and I suppose that 
Fm afraid of her. She won’t leave and I can’t make her and — she’s go- 
ing to do something terrible. She’s already stolen my cameo, but she’s 
about to do something worse — something terrible!” 

The man asked, “Is she a relative, huh?” 

Mrs. Miller shook her head. “I don’t know who she is. Her name’s 
Miriam, but I don’t know for certain who she is.” 

“You gotta calm down, honey,” said the woman, stroking Mrs. 
Miller’s arm. “Harry here’ll tend to this kid. Go on, lover.” And Mrs. 
Miller said, “The door’s open — 5A.” 

After the man left, the woman brought a towel and bathed Mrs. 
Miller’s face. “You’re very kind,” Mrs. Miller said. “Fm sorry to act 
like such a fool, only this wicked child. . . 


179 



TRUMAN CAPOTE 


“Sure, honey,” consoled the woman. “Now, yon better take it easy.” 

Mrs. Miller rested her head in the crook of her arm; she was quiet 
enough to be asleep. The woman turned a radio dial; a piano and a 
husky Voice filled the silence and the woman, tapping her foot, kept 
excellent time. “Maybe we oughta go up too,” she said. 

“I don’t want to see her again. I don’t want to be anywhere near 
her.” 

“Uh huh, but what you shoulda done, you shoulda called a cop.” 

Presently they heard the man on the stairs. He strode into the room 
frowning and scratching the back of his neck. “Nobody there,” he 
said, honestly embarrassed. “She musta beat it.” 

“Harry, you’re a jerk,” announced the woman. “We been sitting 
here the whole time and we woulda seen . . .” she stopped abruptly, 
for the man’s glance was sharp. 

“I looked all over,” he said, “and there just ain’t nobody there. No- 
body, understand?” 

“Tell me,” said Mrs. Miller, rising, “tell me, did you see a large box? 
Or a doll?” 

“No, ma’am, I didn’t.” 

ALnd the woman, as if delivering a verdict, said, “Well, for cryin- 
outloud. . . 

Mrs. Miller entered her apartment softly; she walked to the center 
of the room and stood quite still. No, in a sense it had not changed: 
the roses, the cakes, and the cherries were in place. But this was an 
empty room, emptier than if the furnishings and familiars were not 
present, lifeless and petrified as a funeral parlor. The sofa loomed 
before her with a new strangeness: its vacancy had a meaning that 
would have been less penetrating and terrible had Miriam been curled 
on it. She gazed fixedly at the space where she remembered setting 
the box and, for a moment, the hassock spun desperately. And she 
looked through the window; surely the river was real, surely snow 
was falling— but then, one could not be certain witness to anything: 
Miriam, so vividly there — and yet, where was she? Where, where? 

As though moving in a dream, she sank to a chair. The room was 
losing shape; it was dark and getting darker and there was nothing to 
be done about it; she could not lift her hand to light a lamp. 

180 



MIRIAM 


Suddenly, closing her eyes, she felt an upward surge, like a diver 
emerging from some deeper, greener depth. In times of terror or im- 
mense distress, there are morfients when the mind waits, as though for 
a revelation, while a skein of calm is woven over thought; it is like a 
sleep, or a supernatural trance; and during this lull one is aware of a 
force of quiet reasoning: well, what if she had never really known 
a girl named Miriam? that she had been foolishly frightened on the 
street? In the end, like everything else, it was of no importance. For 
the only thing she had lost to Miriam was her identity, but now she 
knew she had found again the person who lived in this room, who 
cooked her own meals, who owned a canary, who was someone she 
could trust and believe in: Mrs. H. T. Miller. 

Listening in contentment, she became aware of a double sound: a 
bureau drawer opening and closing; she seemed to hear it long after 
completion — opening and closing. Then gradually, the harshness of it 
was replaced by the murmur of a silk dress and this, delicately faint, 
was moving nearer and swelling in intensity till the walls trembled 
with the vibration and the room was caving under a wave of whis- 
pers. Mrs. Miller stiffened and opened her eyes to a dull, direct stare. 

“Hello,” said Miriam. 

TRUMAN CAPOTE (pronounced Ca-po'-tee) is one of the youngest, 
and in certain respects one of the most promising, contemporary 
American authors. He was born in New Orleans on September 30, 
1924. His parents separated, and he was reared by his aunts. He spent 
his childhood in Louisiana and Alabama, his adolescence principally 
in Connecticut and New York. At the age of fifteen he tap-danced on 
a Mississippi pleasure boat. He cultivated a hobby of painting imagi- 
nary flowers on glass and apparently was able to make some money 
out of it. For some time he was a protege of a famous fortune-teller. 
But his real interest was always writing, and even as a boy he wrote 
incessantly. He was a very poor student in school — ^he preferred writ- 
ing to reading. In 1942 he went to New York and got a job with the 
New Yorkefy though as a kind of office boy rather than author. He 
never went to college. His first short story accepted by a major pe- 
riodical was “Miriam,” which appeared in Mademoiselle in the spring 
of 1945. It subsequently received an O. Henry Memorial award. 
He has published four books: two novels. Other V owes y Other Rooms 
(1948), a macabre story of a little boy in a decadent family of the deep 
South, and The Grciss Harp (1951), a short novel somewhat reminis- 

181 



TRUMAN CAPOTE 


cent of Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat; A Tree of Night (1949), a collection 
of short stories; and Local Color (1950), a volume of sentimental 
travel sketches. 

Capote’s work, so far, shows certain limitations, which may be ac- 
counted for by his youth and lack of formal education. It is not a 
vehicle for ideas or for breadth of knowledge. His world is a never- 
never land of the imagination, shadowed by an adolescent fascination 
with evil and decay. He does not deal with the adult world of normal, 
everyday life; his best characters are precocious children. 

But Capote is still young and growing, and has certain remarkable 
qualities which with experience may make him a major American 
author. He has a sense of style, a gift for poetry. His ability to select 
and manipulate words amounts to genius. He has an unusual sense of 
the suggestive, the symbolic values of things. Amazingly, he can make 
his weird world sufficiently convincing to be acceptable. 

The text here printed is taken from A Tree of Night. 

Further information about Capote may be found in Rochelle Gir- 
son, “48’s Nine,” Saturday Review of Literature, xxxii (February 
12, 1949), 13-14; and Selma Robinson, “The Legend of Tittle T,’” 
PMy March 14, 1948, pp. 6-8. 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. This story suggests various interesting questions, some of 
which can be answered with considerable certainty, others perhaps 
not. Answer as many of these as you can: Is Miriam real or is she a fig- 
ment of Mrs. Miller’s imagination? Why does Miriam have silver- 
white hair? Why has she the same first name as Mrs. Miller? Why must 
Mrs. Miller buy food for her? Why is Miriam sometimes wheedling, 
sometimes petulant or impudent? Why does Capote make her a child 
rather than an adult? Is she in any sense a symbol? If so, of what? 
Why does Capote introduce the old man into the story? 

2. Let us suppose that there are some questions in the above list 
that you cannot answer, and, indeed, that there are other situations in 
the story which you cannot interpret. Could it be that Capote has 
deliberately introduced mysterious elements into the story? Can you 
think of any effects which he might hope to achieve by so doing? 

3. Comment on the effectiveness of Miriam’s emergence from a 
bureau drawer. 

4. It has been said that Capote is generally less effective in char- 
acterization of adults than of children. Is Mrs. Miller an exception? To 
what extent is the story an exposition of her character? Is Miriam her- 
self to some degree a well characterized child? Explain. 


182 




THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 

He came to it across the new bridge, from the 
south where the greater city lay — ^the older portion — and where he 
had left his car, and paused at the nearer bridgehead to look at it — ^the 
eddying water of the river below, the new docks and piers built on 
either side since he had left, twenty years before; the once grassy 
slopes on the farther shore, now almost completely covered with fac- 
tories, although he could see too, among them, even now, traces of the 
old, out-of-the-way suburb which he and Marie had known. Chadds 
Bridge, now an integral part of the greater city, connected by car 
lines and through streets, was then such a simple, unpretentious alfair, 
a little suburban village just on the edge of this stream and beyond the 
last straggling northward streets of the great city below, where the 
car lines stopped and from which one had to walk on foot across this 
bridge in order to take advantage of the rural quiet and the cheaper 
— ^much cheaper — ^rents, so all-important to him then. 

Then he was so poor — ^he and Marie — z mere stripling of a mechanic 
and inventor, a student of aeronautics, electricity, engineering, and 
what not, but newly married and without a dollar, and no clear con- 
ception of how his future was to eventuate, whereas now — ^but some- 
how he did not want to think of now. Now he was so very rich, com- 
paratively speaking, older, wiser, such a forceful person commercially 
and in every other way, whereas then he was so lean and pathetic and 

“The Old Neighborhood,” reprinted from Chaim, by Theodore Dreiser, 
by permission of and special arrangement with Myrtle R. Butcher. Copy- 
right, 1927, by Theodore Dreiser. 


183 



THEODORE DREISER 


worried and wistfnl — a mere tincertain stripling, as he saw himself 
now, with ideas and ambitions and dreams which were quite out of 
accord with his immediate prospects or opportunities. It was all right 
to say, as some one had — ^Emerson, he believed — ‘‘hitch your wagon 
to a star.” But some people hitched, or tried to, before they were 
ready. They neglected some of the slower moving vehicles about 
them, and so did not get on at all — or did not seem to, for the time 
being. 

And that had been his error. He was growing at the time, of course, 
but he was so restless, so dissatisfied with himself, so unhappy. All 
the world was apparently tinkling and laughing by, eating, drinking, 
dancing, growing richer, happier, every minute; whereas he — he and 
Marie, and the two babies which came a little later — seemed to make 
no progress at all. None. They were out of it, alone, hidden away in 
this little semi-rural realm, and it was all so disturbing when elsewhere 
was so much — ^to him, at least, if not to her — of all that was worth 
while — ^wealth, power, gayety, repute. How intensely, savagely almost, 
he had craved all of those things in those days, and how far off they 
still were at that time! 

Marie was not like him, soft, clinging little thing that she was, in- 
efficient in most big ways, and yet dear and helpful enough in all little 
ones — oh, so very much so. 

When first he met her in Philadelphia, and later when he brought 
her over to New York, it seemed as though he could not possibly have 
made a better engagement for himself. Marie was so sweet, so gentle, 
with her waxy white pallor, delicately tinted cheeks, soft blackish 
brown eyes that sought his so gently always, as if seeming to ask, 
“And what can I do for my dearie now? What can he teach me to do 
for him?” She was never his equal, mentally or spiritually — ^that was 
the dreadful discovery he had made a few months after the first in- 
fatuation had worn off, after the ivory of her forehead, the lambent 
sweetness of her eyes, her tresses, and her delicately rounded figure, 
had ceased to befuddle his more poetical grain. But how delightful she 
seemed then in her shabby little clothes and her shabbier little home 
— all the more so because her delicate white blossom of a face was 
such a contrast to the drear surroundings in v/hich it shone. Her father 
was no more than a mechanic, she a little store clerk in the great Rand 

t84 



THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD » 


department store in Philadelphia when he met her, he nothing more 
than an experimental assistant with the Culver Electric Company, 
with no technical training of any kind, and only dreams of a technical 
course at some time or other. The beginnings of his career were so 
very vague. 

His parents were poor too, and he had had to begin to earn his own 
living, or share, at fourteen. And at twenty-four he had contracted 
this foolish marriage when he was just beginning to dream of bigger 
things, to see how they were done, what steps were necessary, what 
studies, what cogitations and hard, grinding sacrifices even, before 
one finally achieved anything, especially in the electrical world. The 
facts which had begun to rise and take color and classify themselves in 
his mind had all then to develop under the most advantageous con- 
ditions thereafter. His salary did not rise at once by any means, just 
because he was beginning to think of bigger things. He was a no better 
practical assistant in a laboratory or the equipment department of the 
several concerns for which he worked, because in his brain were al- 
ready seething dim outlines of possible improvements in connection 
with arms, the turbine gun, electro-magnetic distance control, and the 
rotary excavator. He had ideas, but also he realized at the time he 
would have to study privately and long in order to make them real; 
and his studies at night and Sundays and holidays in the libraries and 
everywhere else, made him no more helpful, if as much so, in his prac- 
tical, everyday corporation labors. In fact, for a long time when their 
finances were at the lowest ebb and the two children had appeared, 
and they all needed clothes and diversion, and his salary had not been 
raised, it seemed as though he were actually less valuable to every- 
body. 

But in the meantime Marie had worked for and with him, dear little 
thing, and although she had seemed so wonderful at first, patient, en- 
during, thoughtful, later because of their poverty and so many other 
things which hampered and seemed to interfere with his work, he had 
wearied of her a little. Over in Philadelphia, where he had accom- 
panied her home of an evening and had watched her help her mother, 
saw her set the table, wash the dishes, straighten up the house after 
dinner, and then if it were pleasant go for a walk with him, she 
seemed ideal, just the wife for him, indeed. Later as he sensed the 

185 



THEODORE DREISER 


world, its hardness, its innate selfishness, the necessity for push, cour- 
age, unwillingness to be a slave and a drudge, these earlier qualities 
and charms were the very things that militated against her in his mind. 
Poor little Mariel 

But in other ways his mind was not always on his work, either. 
Sometimes it was on his dreams of bigger things. Sometimes it was on 
his silly blindness in wanting to get married so soon, in being be- 
trayed by the sweet innocence and beauty of Marie into saddling him- 
self with this burden when he was scarcely prepared, as he saw after 
he was married, to work out his own life on a sensible, economic basis. 
A thought which he had encountered somewhere in some book of 
philosophy or other (he was always reading in those days) had 
haunted him — '‘He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to 
fortune’’ — and that painful thought seemed to grow with each suc- 
ceeding day. Why had he been so foolish, why so very foolish, as to 
get married when he was so unsuitably young! That was a thing the 
folly of which irritated him all the time. 

Not that Marie was not all she should be — ^far from it! — ^nor the 
two little boys (both boys, think of that!), intensely precious to him 
at first. No, that was not it, but this, that whatever the values and the 
charms of these (and they were wonderful at first), he personally was 
not prepared to bear or enjoy them as yet. He was too young, too 
restless, too nebulous, too inventively dreamful. He did not, as he had 
so often thought since, know what he wanted — only, when they be- 
gan to have such a very hard time, he knew he did not want that. 
Why, after the first year of their marriage, when Peter was born, and 
because of better trade conditions in the electrical world, they had 
moved over here (he was making only twenty-two dollars a week at 
the time), everything had seemed to go wrong. Indeed, nothing ever 
seemed to go right any more after that, not one thing. 

First it was Marie’s illness after Peter’s birth, which kept him on 
tenterhooks and took all he could rake and scrape and save to pay the 
doctor’s bill, and stole half her beauty, if not more. She always looked 
a little pinched and weak after that. (And he had charged that up to 
her, too! ) Then it was some ailment which affected Peter for months 
and which proved to be undernourishment, due to a defect in Marie’s 
condition even after she had seemingly recovered. Then, two years 

186 



THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


later, it was the birth of Frank, due to another error, of course, he 
being not intended in Marie’s frail state; and then his own difficulties 
with the manager of the insulating department of the International 
Electric, due to his own nervous state, his worries, his consciousness of 
error in the manipulation of his own career — and Marie’s. Life was 
slipping away, as he saw it then and he kept thinking he was growing 
older, was not getting on as he had thought he should, was not achiev- 
ing his technical education; he was saddled with a family which would 
prevent him from ever getting on. Here, in this neighborhood, all this 
had occurred — ^this quiet, run-down realm, so greatly changed since 
he had seen it last. Yes, it had all happened here. 

But how peaceful it was to-day, although changed. How the water 
ran under this bridge now, as then, eddying out to sea. And how this 
late October afternoon reminded him of that other October afternoon 
when they had first walked up here — ^warm, pleasant, colorful. Would 
he ever forget that afternoon? He had thought he was going to do so 
much better — ^was praying that he would, and they had done so much 
worse. He, personally, had grown so restless and dissatisfied with 
himself and her and life. And things seemed to be almost as bad as 
they could be, drifting indefinitely on to nothing. Indeed, life seemed 
to gather as a storm and break. He was discharged from the Interna- 
tional Electric, due supposedly to his taking home for a night a bat- 
tery for an experiment he was making but in reality because of the 
opposition of his superior, based on the latter’s contempt for his con- 
stantly (possibly) depressed and dissatisfied air, his brooding mien, 
and some minor inattentions due to the state of his mind at the time. 

Then, quite as swiftly (out of black plotting or evil thoughts of 
his own, perhaps), Peter had died of pneumonia. And three days later 
Frank. There were two funerals, two dreary, one-carriage affairs — 
he remembered that so well! — ^for they had no money; and his 
pawned watch, five dollars from Marie’s mother, and seven chemical 
and electrical works sold to an old book man had provided the cash 
advance required by the undertaker! Then, spiritually, something 
seemed to break within him. He could not see this world, this imme- 
diate life in which he was involved, as having any significance in it for 
himself or any one after that. He could not stand it any more, the 
weariness, the boredom, the dissatisfaction with himself, the failure of 


187 



THEODORE DREISER 


himself, the sickening chain of disasters which had befallen this earlier 
adventure. And so — 

But that was why he was here to-day, after ail these years — ^twenty- 
four, to be exact — ^with his interest in this old region so keen, if so sad. 
Why, there — there! — ^was a flock of pigeons, just like those of old Abi- 
jah Hargot’s, flying around the sky now, as then. And a curl of smoke 
creeping up from Tanzer’s blacksmith shop, or the one that had suc- 
ceeded it, just one block from this bridge. How well he remembered 
old Tanzer and his forge, his swelling muscles and sooty face! He had 
always nodded in such a friendly way as he passed and talked of the 
pest of flies and heat in summer. That was why he was pausing on this 
bridge to-day, just to see once more, to feel, standing in the pleasant 
afternoon sun of this October day and gazing across the swirling wa- 
ters below at the new coal-pockets, the enlarged lamp works of the 
George C. Woodruff Company, once a mere shed hidden away at a 
corner of this nearest street and rented out here no doubt because it 
was cheap and Woodruff was just beginning — just as he did twenty- 
four years before. Time had sped by so swiftly. One’s ideals and ideas 
changed so. Twenty years ago he would have given so much to be 
what he was now — rich and fairly powerful — and now — ^now — The 
beauty of this old neighborhood, to-day, even. 

The buff school which crowned the rise beyond, and the broad 
asphalt of Edgewood Avenue leading up to the old five-story flat 
building — ^the only one out here, and a failure financially — ^in which 
he and Marie had had their miserable little apartment — ^here it was, 
still to be seen. Yes, it and so many other things were all here; that 
group bf great oaks before old Hargot’s door; the little red — ^if now 
rusted-weather-vane over his carriage house; the tall romantic tower 
of St. George’s Episcopal Church — ^so far to the west over the river, 
and the spars and masts of vessels that still docked here for a while. 
But dark memories they generated, too, along with a certain idyllic 
sweetness, which had seemed to envelop the whole at first. For though 
it had had sweetness and peace at first, how much that had been bitter 
and spiritually destroying had occurred here, too. 

How well he recalled, for instance, the day he and Marie had 
wandered up here, almost hand in hand, across this very bridge and 

188 



THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


up Edgewood Avenue, nearly twenty-four years before! They had 
been so happy at first, dreaming their little dream of a wonderful fu- 
ture for them — and now — ^well, his secret agency had brought him 
ail there was to know of her and her mother and her little world after 
he had left. They had suffered so much, apparently, and all on ac- 
count of him. But somehow he did not want to think of that now. It 
was not for that he had come to-day, but to see, to dream over the 
older, the better, the first days. 

He crossed over, following the old road which had then been a cob- 
ble wagon trail, and turned into Edgewood Avenue which led up past 
the line of semi-country homes which he used to dread so much, 
homes which because of their superior prosperity, wide lawns, flowers 
and walks, made the life which he and Marie were compelled to lead 
here seem so lean and meagre by contrast. Why, yes, here was the very 
residence of Gatewood, the dentist, so prosperous then and with an 
office downtown; and that of Dr. Newton, whom he had called in 
when Peter and Frank were taken ill that last time; and Temple, the 
druggist, and Stoutmeyer, the grocer — ^both of whom he had left ow- 
ing money; and Dr. Newton, too, for that matter — although all had 
subsequently been paid. Not a sign of the names of either Gatewood 
or Newton on their windows or gates now; not a trace of Temple’s 
drug store. But here was Stoutmeyer’s grocery just the same. And 
Buchspiel, the butcher. (Could he still be alive, by any chance — ^was 
that his stout, aged figure within?) And Ortman, the baker — ^not a 
sign of change there. And over the way the then village school, now 
Public School No. 261, as he could see. And across from it, beyond, 
the slim little, almost accidental (for this region) five-story apart- 
ment house — ^built because of an error in judgment, of course, when 
they thought the city was going to grow out this way — a thing of 
grayish-white brick. On the fifth floor of this, in the rear, he and 
Marie had at last found a tiny apartment of three rooms and bath, 
cheap enough for them to occupy in the growing city and still pay 
their way. What memories the mere sight of the building evoked! 
Where were all the people now who used to bustle about here of a 
summer evening when he and Marie were here, boys and girls, grown 
men and women of the neighborhood? It had ail been so pleasant at 

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THEODORE DREISER 


first, Marie up there preparing dinner and he coming home promptly 
at seven and sometimes whistling as he came! He was not always un- 
happy, even here. 

Yes, ail was exactly as it had been in the old days in regard to this 
building and this school, even — as he lived! — a “For Rent” sign in 
that very same apartment, four flights up, as it had been that warm 
October day when they had first come up here seeking. 

But what a change in himself — ^stouter, so much older, gray now. 
And Marie — dying a few years after in this very region without his 
ever seeing her again or she him — and she had written him such pa- 
thetic letters. She had been broken, no doubt, spiritually and in every 
other way when he left her, — no pointless vanity in that, alas — ^it was 
too sad to involve vanity. Yes, he had done that. Would it ever be for- 
given him? Would his error of ambition and self-dissatisf action be 
seen anywhere in any kindly light — on earth or in heaven? He had 
suffered so from remorse in regard to it of late. Indeed, now that he 
was rich and so successful the thought of it had begun to torture him. 
Some time since — five years ago — ^he had thought to make amends, but 
then — ^well, then he had found that she wasn’t any more. Poor little 
Marie! 

But these walls, so strong and enduring (stone had this advantage 
over human flesh!), were quite as he had left them, quite as they were 
the day he and Marie had first come here — ^hopeful, cheerful, 
although later so depressed, the two of them. (And he had charged 
her spiritually with it all, or nearly so — ^its fatalities and gloom, as 
though she could have avoided them!) 

The ruthlessness of it! 

The sheer brutality! 

The ignorance! 

If she could but see him now, his great shops and factories, his hun- 
dreds of employes, his present wife and children, his great new home 
— and still know how he felt about her! If he could only call her back 
and tell her, apologize, explain, make some amends! But no; life did 
not work that way. Doors opened and doors closed. It had . no consid- 
eration for eleventh-hour repentances. As though they' mattered to 
life, or anything else! He could tell her something now, of course, 
explain the psychology, let her know how pathetically depressed and 

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THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


weary he had felt then. But would she understand, care, forgive? She 
had been so fond of him, done so much for him in her small, sweet 
way. And yet, if she only knew, he could scarcely have helped doing 
as he did then, so harried and depressed and eager for advancement 
had he been, self-convinced of his own error and failure before ever 
his life had a good start. If she could only see how little all his later 
triumphs mattered now, how much he would be glad to do for her 
now! if only — only — he could. Well, he must quit these thoughts. 
They did not help at all, nor his coming out here and feeling this way! 

But life was so automatic and unconsciously cruel at times. One’s 
disposition drove one so, shutting and bolting doors behind one, driv- 
ing one on and on like a harried steer up a narrow runway to one’s 
fate. He could have been happy right here with Marie and the chil- 
dren — as much so as he had ever been since. Or, if he had only taken 
Marie along, once the little ones were gone — ^they might have been 
happy enough together. They might have been! But no, no; some- 
thing in him at that time would not let him. Really, he was a victim of 
his own grim impulses, dreams, passions, mad and illogical as that 
might seem. He was crazy for success, wild with a desire for a supe- 
rior, contemptuous position in the world. People were so, at times. 
He had been. He had had to do as he did, so horribly would he have 
suffered mentally if he had not, all the theories of the moralists to the 
contrary notwithstanding. The notions of one’s youth were not neces- 
sarily those of age, and that was why he was here to-day in this very 
gloomy and contrite mood. 

He went around the corner now to the side entrance of the old 
apartment house, and paused. For there, down the street, almost — ^not 
quite — as he had left it, was the residence of the quondam old Abijah 
Hargot, he of the pigeons, — ^iron manufacturer and Presbyterian, who 
even in his day was living there in spite of the fact that the truly 
princely residence suburbs had long since moved much farther out and 
he was being entirely surrounded by an element of cheaper life which 
could not have been exactly pleasant to him. In those days he and 
Marie had heard of the hardwood floors, the great chandeliers, the 
rugs and pictures of the house that had once faced a wide sward lead- 
ing down to the river’s edge itself. But look at it now! A lumber-yard 
between it and the river! And some sort of a small shop or factory 

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THEODORE DREISER 


on this end of the lawn! And in his day, Abijah had kept a pet Jersey 
cow nibbling the grass under the trees and fantailed pigeons on the 
slate roof of his barn, at the corner where now was this small factory, 
and at the back of his house an immense patch of golden glow just 
outside the conservatory facing the east, and also two pagodas down 
near the river. But all gone! all gone, or nearly so. Just the house and 
a part of the lawn. And occupied now by whom? In the old days he 
had never dared dream, or scarcely so, that some day, years later — 
when he would be much older and sadder, really, and haunted by the 
ghosts of these very things — he would be able to return here and know 
that he had far more imposing toys than old Hargot had ever 
dreamed of, as rich as he was. 

Toys! 

Toys! 

Yes, they were toys, for one played with them a little while, as with 
so many things, and then laid them aside forever. 

Toys! 

Toys! 

But then, as he had since come to know, old Hargot had not been 
without his troubles, in spite of all his money. For, as rumor had it 
then, his oldest son, Lucien, his pride, in those days, a slim, artistic 
type of boy, had turned out a drunkard, gambler, night-life lover; had 
run with women, become afflicted with ail sorts of ills, and after his 
father had cut him off and driven, him out (refusing to permit him 
even to visit the home), had hung about here, so the neighbors had 
said, and stolen in to see his mother,* especially on dark or rainy nights, 
in order to get aid from her. And, like all mothers, she had aided him 
secretly, or so they said, in spite of her fear of her husband. Mothers 
were like that — ^his mother, too. Neighbors testified that they had 
seen her whispering to him in the shade of the trees of the lawn or 
around the corner in the next street — a sad, brooding, careworn 
woman, always in black or dark blue. Yes, life held its disappointments 
for every one, of course, even old Abijah and himself. 

He went on to the door and paused, wondering whether to go up or 
not, for the atmosphere of this building and this neighborhood was 
very, very sad now, very redolent of old, sweet, dead and half-for- 
gotten things. The river there, running so freshly at the foot of the 


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THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


street; the school where the children used to play and shout, while he 
worked on certain idle days when there was no work at the factory; 
the little church up the street to which so many commonplace adher- 
ents used to make their way on Sunday; the shabby cabin of the 
plumber farther up this same street, who used to go tearing off every 
Saturday and Sunday in a rattle-trap car which he had bought second- 
hand and which squeaked and groaned, for all the expert repairing 
he had been able to do upon it. 

The color, the humor, the sunshine of those old first days, in spite 
of their poverty! 

He hesitated as to whether to ring the bell or no — just as he and 
Marie had, twenty-odd years before. She was so gay then, so hopeful, 
so all-unconscious of the rough fate that was in store for her here. 
. . . How would it be inside? Would Marie’s little gas stove still be 
near the window in the combined kitchen, dining-room and laundry — 
almost general living-room — which that one room was? Would the 
thin single gas jet still be hanging from the ceiling over their small 
dining-room table (or the ghost of it) where so often after their 
meals, to save heat in the other room — ^because there was no heat in 
the alleged radiator, and their oil stove cost money — ^he had sat and 
read or worked on plans of some of the things he hoped to perfect — 
and had since, years since, but long after he had left her and this 
place? How sad! He had never had one touch of luck or opportunity 
with her here, — ^not one. Yet, if only she could, and without pain be- 
cause of it, know how brilliantly he had finished some of them, how 
profitably they had resulted for him if not her. 

But he scarcely looked like one who would be wanting to see so 
small an apartment, he now felt, tall and robust and prosperous as he 
was. Still might he not be thinking of buying this place? Or renting 
quarters for a servant or a relative? Who should know? What differ- 
ence did it make? Why should he care? 

He rang the bell, thinking of the small, stupid, unfriendly and self- 
defensive woman who, twenty or more years before, had come up 
from the basement below, wiping her hands on a gingham apron and 
staring at them querulously. How well he remembered her — and how 
unfriendly she had always remained in spite of their efforts to be 
friendly, because they had no tips to give her. She could not be here 


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THEODORE DREISER 


any longer, of course; no, this one coming was unlike her in every- 
thing except stupidity and grossness. But they were alike in that, wxii 
enough. This one was heavy, beefy. She would make almost two of 
the other one. 

“The rooms,” he had almost said “apartment,” “on the top floor — 
may I see them?” 

“Dey are only t’ree an’ bat’ — ^fourteen by der mont’.” 

“Yes, I know,” he now added almost sadly. So they had not raised 
the rent in all this time, although the city had grown so. Evidently 
this region had become worse, not better. “I’ll look at them, if you 
please, just the same,” he went on, feeling that the dull face before 
him was wondering why he should be looking at them at all. 

“Vait; I getcha der key. You can go up py yerself.” 

He might have known that she would never climb any four flights 
save under compulsion. 

She returned presently, and he made his way upward, remember- 
ing how the fat husband of the former janitress had climbed up 
promptly every night at ten, if you please, putting out the wee lights 
of gas on the return trip (ail but a thin flame on the second floor: or- 
ders from the landlord, of course), and exclaiming as he did so, at 
each landing, “Ach Gott, I go me up py der secon’ floor ant make me 
der lights out. Ach Gott, I go me py der t’ird floor ant make me der 
lights out. Ach Gott, I go me py der fourt’ floor ant make me der 
lights out,” and so on until he reached the fifth, where they lived. 
How often he had listened to him, puffing and moaning as he came! 

Yes, the. yellowish-brown paper that they had abhorred then, or 
one nearly as bad, covered all these hall walls today. The stairs 
squeaked, just as they had then. The hall gas jets were just as small 
and surmounted by shabby little pink imitation glass candles — to give 
the place an air, no doubt! He and Marie would never have taken this 
place at all if it had depended on the hail, or if the views from its little 
windows had not been so fine. In the old days he had trudged up these 
steps many a night, winter and summer, listening, as he came, for 
sounds of Marie in the Idtchen, for the prattle of the two children 
after they were with them, for the glow of a friendly light (always 
shining at six in winter) under the door and through the keyhole. His 
light! His door! In those early dark winter days, when he was work- 

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THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


ing so far downtown and coming home this way regularly, Marie, at 
the sound of his key in the lock, would always come running, her 
heavy black hair done in a neat braid about her brow, her trim little 
figure buttoned gracefully into a house-dress of her own making. And 
she always had a smile and a “Hello, dearie; back again?” no matter 
how bad things were with them, how lean the little larder or the fam- 
ily purse. Poor little Marie! 

It all came back to him now as he trudged up the stairs and neared 
the door. God! 

And here was the very door, unchanged — ^yellow, painted to imi- 
tate the natural grain of oak, but the job having turned out a dismal 
failure as he had noted years before. And the very lock the same! 
Could be believe? Scarcely any doubt of it. For here was that other 
old hole, stuffed with putty and painted over, which he and Marie 
had noted as being the scar of some other kind of a lock or knob that 
had preceded this one. And still stuffed with paper! Marie had 
thought burglars (!) might make their way in via that, and he had 
laughed to think what they would steal if they should. Poor little 
Marie! 

But now, now — ^well, here he was all alone, twenty-four years later, 
Marie and Peter and Frank gone this long time, and he the master of so 
many men and so much power and so much important property. 
What was life, anyhow? What was it? 

Ghosts! Ghosts! 

Were there ghosts? 

Did spirits sometimes return and live and dream over old, sad scenes 
such as this? Could Marie? Would she? Did she? 

Oh, Marie! . . . Marie! Poor little weak, storm-beaten, life-beaten 
soul. And he the storm, really. 

Well, here was the inside now, and things were not a bit different 
from what they had been in his and her day, when they had both been 
so poor. No, just the same. The floor a little more nail-marked, per- 
haps, especially in the kitchen here, where no doubt family after fam- 
ily had tacked down oil-cloth in place of other pieces taken up — ^theirs, 
for instance. And here in the parlor — save the mark! — ^the paper as 
violent as it had ever been! Such paper— red, with great bowls of 
pinkish flowers arranged in orderly rows! But then they were paying 

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THEODORE DREISER 


so little rent that it was ridiculous for them to suggest that they 
wanted anything changed. The landlord would not have changed it 
anyhow. 

And here on the west wall, between the two windows, overlooking 
Abijah Hargot’s home and the river and the creeping city beyond, 
was where he had hung a wretched little picture, a print of an etching 
of a waterscape which he had admired so much in those days and had 
bought somewhere second-hand for a dollar — a house on an inlet near 
the sea, such a house as he would have liked to have occupied, or 
thought he would — ^then. Ah, these windows! The northernmost one 
had always been preferred by him and her because of the sweep of 
view west and north. And how often he had stood looking at a soft, 
or bleak, or reddening, sunset over the river; or, of an early night in 
winter, at the lights on the water below. And the outpost apartments 
and homes of the great city beyond. Life had looked very dark then, 
indeed. At times, looking, he had been very sad. He was like some 
brooding Hamlet of an inventor as he stood there then gazing at the 
sweet little river, the twinkling stars in a steely black sky overhead; 
or, in the fall when it .was still light, some cold red island of a cloud 
in the sky over the river and the city, and wondering what was to 
become of him — ^what was in store for him! The fallacy of such mem- 
ories as these! Their futility! 

But things had dragged and dragged — ^here! In spite of the fact that 
his mind was full of inventions, inventions, inventions, and methods 
of applying them in some general way which would earn him money, 
place, fame — as they subsequently did — ^the strange mysteries of ionic 
or electronic action, for instance, of motion, of attraction and polar- 
ity, of wave lengths and tensile strengths and adhesions in metals, 
woods and materials of all kinds — ^his apparent error in putting him- 
self in a position where failure might come to him had so preyed on 
his mind here, that he could do nothing. He could only dream, and do 
common, ordinary day labor — skeleton wiring and insulating, for in- 
stance, electrical mapping, and the Hke. Again, later, but while still 
here, since he had been reading, reading, reading after marriage, and 
working and thinking, life had gone off into a kind of welter of con- 
flicting and yet organized and plainly directed powers which was 
confusing to him, which was not to be explained by anything man 

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THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


could think of and which no inventor had as yet fully used, however 
great he was — ^Edison, Kelvin, or Bell. Everything as he knew then 
and hoped to make use of in some way was alive, everything full of 
force, even so-called dead or decaying things. Life was force, that 
strange, seemingly (at times) intelligent thing, and there was appar- 
ently nothing but force — everywhere — amazing, perfect, indestructi- 
ble. (He had thought of all that here in this little room and on the 
roof overhead where he made some of his experiments, watching old 
Hargot’s pigeons flying about the sky, the sound of their wings com- 
ing so close at times that they were like a whisper of the waves of the 
sea, dreams in themselves.) 

But the little boundaries of so-called health and decay, strength and 
weakness, as well as all alleged fixity or changelessness of things, — ^how 
he had brooded on all that, at that time. And how all thought of fixity 
in anything had disappeared as a ridiculous illusion intended, maybe, 
by something to fool man into the belief that his world here, his phys- 
ical and mental state, was real and enduring, a greater thing than any- 
thing else in the universe, when so plainly it was not. But not himself. 
A mere shadow — an illusion — ^nothing. On this little roof, here, sitting 
alone at night or by day in pleasant weather or gray, Saturdays and 
Sundays when it was warm and because they had no money and no 
particular place to go, and looking at the stars or the lights of the city 
or the sun shining 'on the waters of the little river below, — ^he had 
thought of all this. It had all come to him, the evanescence of every- 
thing, its slippery, protean changefulness. Everything was alive, and 
everything was nothing, in so far as its seeming reality was concerned. 
And yet everything was everything but still capable of being under- 
mined, changed, improved, or come at in some hitherto undreamed-of 
way — even by so humble a creature as himself, an inventor — and used 
as chained force, if only one knew how. And that was why he had 
become a great inventor since — ^because he had thought so — ^had 
chained force and used it — even he. He had become conscious of an- 
terior as well as ulterior forces and immensities and fathomless wells 
of wisdom and energy, and had enslaved a minute portion of them, 
that was all. But not here! Oh, no. Later! 

The sad part of it, as he thought of it now, was that poor little 
Marie could not have understood a thing of all he was thinking, even 


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THEODORE DREISER 


if he had explained and explained, as he never attempted to do. Life 
was all a mystery to Marie — deep, dark, strange — as it was to him, 
only he was seeking and she was not. Sufficient to her to be near him, 
loving him in her simple, dumb way, not seeking to understand. Even 
then he had realized that and begun to condemn her for it in his mind, 
to feel that she was no real aid and could never be — just a mother-girl, 
a housewife, a social fixture, a cook, destined to be shoved back if ever 
he were really successful; and that was sad even then, however obvi- 
ously true. 

But to her, apparently, he was so much more than just a mere man 
— a god, really, a dream, a beau, a most wonderful person, dreaming 
strange dreams and thinking strange thoughts which would lead him 
heaven knows where; how high or how strange, though, she could 
never guess, nor even he then. And for that very reason — ^her blind, 
non-understanding adoration — she had bored him then, horribly at 
times. Ail that he could think of then, as he looked at her at times — 
after the first year or two or three, when the novelty of her physical 
beauty and charm had worn off and the children had come, and cares 
and worries due to his non-success were upon them — ^was that she was 
an honest, faithful, patient, adoring little drudge, but no more, and 
that was all she would ever be. Think of that! That was the way life 
was — ^the way it rewarded love! He had not begun to dislike her — 
no, that was not it — but it was because, as the philosopher had said, 
that in and through her and the babies he had given hostages to for- 
tune, and that she was not exactly the type of woman who could fur- 
ther him as fast as he wished — ^that he had begun to weary of her. 
And that was practically the whole base of his objection to her, — ^not 
anything she did. 

Yes, yes — ^it was that, that, that had begun to plague him as though 
he had consciously fastened a ball and chain on one foot and now 
never any more could walk quickly or well or be really free. Instead 
of being able to think on his inventions he was constantly being com- 
pelled to think on how he would make a living for her and them, or 
find ten more dollars, or get a new dress for Marie and shoes for the 
children! Or how increase his salary. That was the great and enduring 
problem all the time, and over and over here. Although healthy, vig- 
orous and savagely ambitious, at that time, it was precisely because 

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THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


he was those things that he had rebelled so and had desired to be free. 
He was too strong and fretful as he could see now to endure so mean 
a life. It was that that had made him savage, curt, remote, indiiferent 
so much of the time in these later days — ^here — And to her. And when 
she could not help it at all — poor little thing — did not know how to 
help it and had never asked him to marry her! Life had tinkled so in 
his ears then. It had called and called. And essentially, in his own eyes 
then, he was as much of a failure as a husband as he was at his work, 
and that was killing him. His mind had been too steadily depressed 
by his mistake in getting married, in having children so soon, as well 
as by his growing knowledge of what he might be fitted to do if only 
he had a chance to go off to a big technical school somewhere and 
work his way through alone and so get a new and better position 
somewhere else — ^to have a change of scene. For once, as he knew 
then, and with all his ideas, he was technically fitted for his work, 
with new light and experience in his mind, what wonders might he 
not accomplish! Sitting in this little room, or working or dreaming 
upstairs in the air, how often he had thought of all that! 

But no; nothing happened for ever so long here. Days and weeks 
and months, and even years went by without perceptible change. Na- 
ture seemed to take a vicious delight in torturing him, then, in so far 
as his dreams were concerned, his hopes. Hard times came to Amer- 
ica, blasting ones — a year and a half of panic really — ^in which every 
one hung on to his pathetic little place, and even he was afraid to re- 
linquish the meagre one he had, let alone ask for more pay. At the 
same time his dreams, the passing of his youth, this unconscionable 
burden of a family, tortured him more and more. Marie did not seem 
to mind anything much, so long as she was with him. She suffered, of 
course, but more for him than for herself, for his unrest, and his dis- 
satisfaction, which she feared. Would he ever leave her? Was he be- 
coming unhappy with her? Her eyes so often asked what her lips 
feared to frame. 

Once they had seventy dollars saved toward some inventive work 
of his. But then little Peter fell from the top of the washtub, where 
he had climbed for some reason, and broke his arm. Before it was 
healed and all the bills paid, the seventy was gone. Another time 
Marie’s mother was dying, or so she thought, and she had to go back 


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THEODORE DREISER 


home and help her father and brother in their loneliness. Again, it 
was brother George who, broke, arrived from Philadelphia and lived 
with them a while because he had no place else to go. Also once he 
thought to better himself by leaving the International Electric, and 
joining the Winston Castro Generator Company. But when he had 
left the first, the manager of the second, to whom he had applied and 
by whom he had been engaged, was discharged (“let out,” as 
he phrased it), and the succeeding man did not want him. So for three 
long months he had been without anything, and, like Job, finally, he 
had been ready to curse God and die. 

And then — ^right here in these rooms it was — ^he had rebelled, spir- 
itually, as he now recalled, and had said to himself that he could not 
stand this any longer, that he was ruining his life, and that however 
much it might torture Marie — ^ruin her even — he must leave and do 
something to better his state. Yes quite definitely, once and for all, 
then, he had wished that he had not married Marie, that they had 
never been so foolish as to have children, that Marie was not depend- 
ent on him any more, that he was free to go, be, do, all the things he 
felt that he could go do, be — ^no matter where, so long as he went and 
was free. Yes, he had wished that in a violent, rebellious, prayerful 
way, and then — 

Of all the winters of his life, the one that followed that was the 
blackest and bleakest, that last one with Marie. It seemed to bring ab- 
solutely nothing to either him or her or the children save disaster. 
Twenty-five dollars was all he had ever been able to make, ap- 
parently, while he was with her. The children were growing and con- 
stantly requiring more; Marie needed many things, and was skimping 
along on God knows what. Once she had made herself some corset 
slips and other things out of his cast-oif underwear — bad as that was! 
And then once, when he was crossing Chadds Bridge, just below here, 
and had paused to meditate and dream, a new hat — his very best, 
needless to say, for he had worn his old one until it was quite gone — 
had blown off into the water, a swift wind and some bundles he was 
compelled to carry home aiding, and had been swiftly carried out by 
the tide. So much had he been harried in those days by one thing and 
another that at first he had not even raged, altiiough he was accus- 
tomed so to do. Instead then he had just shut his teeth and trudged 


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THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


on in the biting wind, in danger of taking cold and dying of some- 
thing or other — as he had thought at the time — only then he had said 
to himself that he did not really mind now. What difference did it 
make to himself or anybody whether he died or not? Did anybody 
care really, God or anybody else, what became of him? Supposing he 
did it? What of it? Could it be any worse than this? To hell with life 
itself, and its Maker, — ^this brutal buffeting of winds and cold and har- 
rying hungers and jealousies and fears and brutalities, arranged to 
drive and make miserable these crawling, beggarly creatures — men! 
Why, what had he ever had of God or any creative force so far? What 
had God ever done for him or his life, or his wife and children? 

So he had defiantly raged. 

And then life — or God, or what you will — had seemed to strike at 
last. It was as if some Jinnee of humane or inhuman power had said, 
“Very well, then, since you are so dissatisfied and unhappy, so un- 
worthy of all this (perhaps) that I have given you, you shall have your 
will, your dreams. You have prayed to be free. Even so — this thing 
that you see here now shall pass away. You have sinned against love 
and faith in your thoughts. You shall be free! Look! Behold! You shall 
be! Your dreams shall come true!” 

And then, at once, as if in answer to this command of the Jinnee, 
as though, for instance, it had waved its hand, the final storm began 
which blew everything quite away. Fate struck. It was as if black an- 
gels had entered and stationed themselves at his doors and windows, 
armed with the swords of destruction, of death. Harpies and furies 
beset his path and perched on his roof. One night — ^it was a month 
before Peter and Frank died, only three days before they contracted 
their final illness — he was crossing this same bridge below here and 
was speculating, as usual, as to his life and his future, when suddenly, 
in spite of the wind and cold and some dust flying from a coal barge 
below, his eye was attracted by two lights which seemed to come 
dancing down the hill from the direction of his apartment and passed 
out over the river. They rose to cross over the bridge in front of him 
and disappeared on the other side. They came so close they seemed 
almost to brush his face, and yet he could not quite accept them as 
real. There was something too eerie about them. From the moment 
he first laid eyes on them in the distance they seemed strange. They 


201 



THEODORE DREISER 


came so easily, gracefully, and went so. From the first moment he saw 
them there below Tegetmiller’s paint shop, he wondered about them. 
What were they? What could they mean? They were so bluish clear, 
like faint, grey stars, so pale and watery. Suddenly it was as if some- 
thing whispered to him, “Behold! These are the souls of your chil- 
dren. They are going — ^never to return! See! Your prayers are being 
answered!” 

And then it was that, struck with a kind of horror and numb de- 
spair, he had hurried home, quite prepared to ask Marie if the two 
boys were dead or if anything had happened to them. But, finding 
them up and playing as usual he had tried to put away all thought of 
this fact as a delusion, to say nothing. But the lights haunted him. 
They would not stay out of his mind. Would his boys really die? Yet 
the first and the second day went without change. But on the third 
both boys took sick, and he knew his dread was well founded. 

For on the instant, Marie was thrown into a deep, almost inexpli- 
cable, depression, from which there was no arousing her, although 
she attempted to conceal it from him by waiting on and worrying 
over them. They had to put the children in the one little bedroom 
(theirs), while they used an extension cot in the “parlor,” previously 
occupied by the children. Young Dr. Newton, the one physician of 
repute in the neighborhood, was called in, and old Mrs. Wertzel, the 
German woman in front, who, being old and lonely and very fond of 
Marie, had volunteered her services. And so they had weathered 
along, God only knows how. Marie prepared the meals — or nearly 
all of them — as best she could. He had gone to work each day, half in 
a dream, wondering what the end was to be. 

And then one night, as he and Marie were lying on the cot pretend- 
ing to sleep, he felt her crying. And taldng her in his arms he had 
tried to unwish all the dark things he had wished, only apparently 
then it was too late. Something told him it was. It was as though in 
some dark mansion somewhere — some supernal court or hall of light 
or darkness — his prayer had been registered and answered, a decision 
made, and that that decision could not now be unmade. No. Into this 
shabby little room where they lay and where she was crying had 
come a final black emissary, scaled, knightly, with immense arms and 
wings and a glittering sword, aU black, and would not leave until all 

20Z 



THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


this should go before him. Perhaps he had been a little deranged in 
his mind at the time, but so it had seemed. 

And then, just a few weeks after he had seen the lights and a few 
days after Marie had cried so, Peter had died — poor weak little thing 
that he was — and, three days later, Frank. Those terrible hours! For 
by then he was feeling so strange and sad and mystical about it all that 
he could neither eat nor sleep nor weep nor work nor think. He had 
gone about, as indeed had Marie, in a kind of stupor of misery and 
despair. True, as he now told himself — and then too, really, — ^he had 
not loved the children with all the devotion he should have or he 
would never have had the thoughts he had had — or so he had rea- 
soned afterward. Yet then as now he suffered because of the love he 
should have given them, and had not — and now could not any more, 
save in memory. He recalled how both boys looked in those last sad 
days, their pinched little faces and small weak hands! Marie was 
crushed, and yet dearer for the time being than ever before. But the 
two children, once gone, had seemed the victims of his own dark 
thoughts as though his own angry, resentful wishes had slain them. 
And so, for the time, his mood changed. He wished, if he could, that 
he might undo it all, go on as before with Marie, have other children 
to replace these lost ones in her affection — ^but no. It was apparently 
not to be, not ever any more. 

For, once they were gone, the cords which had held him and Marie 
together were weaker, not stronger — almost broken, really. For the 
charm which Marie had originally had for him had mostly been 
merged in the vivacity and vitality and interest of these two prattling 
curly-headed boys. Despite the financial burden, the irritation and 
drain they had been at times, they had also proved a binding chain, a 
touch of sweetness in the relationship, a hope for the future, a balance 
which had kept even this uneven scale. With them present he had felt 
that however black the situation it must endure because of them, their 
growing interests; with them gone, it was rather plain that some 
modification of their old state was possible — just how, for the mo- 
ment, he scarcely dared think or wish. It might be that he could go 
away and study for awhile now. There was no need of his staying 
here. The neighborhood was too redolent now of the miseries they 
had endured. Alone somewhere else, perhaps, he could collect 

203 



THEODORE DREiSER 


his thoughts, think out a new program. If he went away he might 
eventually succeed in doing better by Marie. She could return to her 
parents in Philadelphia for a little while and wait for him, working 
there at something as she had before until he ‘was ready to send for 
her. The heavy load of debts could wait until he was better able 
to pay them. In the meantime, also, he could work and whatever he 
made over and above his absolute necessities might go to her — or to 
clearing off these debts. 

So he had reasoned. 

But it had not worked out so of course. No. In the broken mood in 
which Marie then was it was not so easy. Plainly, since he had run 
across her that April day in Philadelphia when he was wiring for the 
great dry goods store, her whole life had become identified with his, 
although his had not become merged with hers. No. She was, 
and would be, as he could so plainly see, then, nothing without him, 
whereas he — he — Well, it had long since been plain that he would be 
better off without her — materially, anyhow. But what would she do 
if he stayed away a long time — or never came back? What become? 
Had he thought of that then? Yes, he had. He had even thought that 
once away he might not feel like renewing this situation which had 
proved so disastrous. And Marie had seemed to sense that, too. She 
was so sad. True he had not thought of all these things in any bold 
outright fashion then. Rather they were as sly, evasive shadows skulk- 
ing in the remote recesses of his brain, things which scarcely dared 
show their faces to the light, although later, once safely away — ^they 
had come forth boldly enough. Only at that time, and later — even 
now, he could not help feeling that however much Marie might have 
lacked originally, or then, the fault for their plight was his, — ^that if 
he himself had not been so dull in the first instance all these black 
things would not have happened to him or to her. But could she go 
cto. without him? Would she? he had asked himself then. And 
answered that it would be better for him to leave and build himself 
up in a different world, and then return and help her later. So he fret- 
ted and reasoned. 

But time had solved all that, too. In spite of the fact that he could 
not help picturing her back there alone with her parents in Philadel- 
phia, their poor little cottage in Leigh Street in which she and her 

204 



THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


parents had lived — ^not a cottage either, but a minute little brick 
pigeon-hole in one of those long lines of red, treeless, smoky barracks 
flanking the great mills of what was known as the RefEngton District, 
where her father worked — ^he had gone. He had asked himself what 
would she be doing there? What thinking, all alone without him — ^the 
babies dead? But he had gone. 

He recalled so well the day he left her — she to go to Philadelphia, 
he to Boston, presumably — the tears, the depression, the unbelievable 
sadness in her soul and his. Did she suspect? Did she foreknow? She 
was so gentle, even then, so trustful, so sad. “You will come back to 
me, dearie, won’t you, soon?” she had said, and so sadly. “We will be 
happy yet, won’t we?” she had asked between sobs. And he had prom- 
ised. Oh yes; he had done much promising in his life, before and since. 
That was one of the darkest things in his nature, his power of 
promising. 

But had he kept that? 

However much in after months and years he told himself that he 
wanted to, that he must, that it was only fair, decent, right, still he 
had not gone back. No. Other things had come up with the passing of 
the days, weeks, months, years, other forces, other interests. Some 
plan, person, desire had always intervened, interfered, warned, coun- 
seled, delayed. Were there such counselors? There had been 
times during the first year when he had written her and sent her a 
little money — ^money he had needed badly enough himself. Later 
there was that long period. in which he felt that she must be getting 
along well enough, being with her parents and at work, and he had 
not written. A second woman had already appeared on the scene by 
then as a friend. And then — 

The months and years since then in which he had not done 
so! After his college course — ^which he took up after he left Marie, 

working his way — ^he had left Boston and gone to K to begin a 

career as an assistant plant manager and a developer of ideas of his 
own, selling the rights to such things as he invented to the great com- 
pany with which he was connected. And then it was that by degrees 
the idea of a complete independence and a much greater life had oc- 
curred to him. He found himself so strong, so interesting to others. 
Why not be free, once and for all? Why not grow greater? Why not 

205 



THEODORE DREISER 


go forward and work ont all the things about which he had dreamed? 
The thing from which he had extricated himself was too confining, 
too narrow. It would not do to return. The old shell could not now 
contain him. Despite her tenderness, Marie was not significant 
enough. So — He had already seen so much that he could do, be, new 
faces, a new world, women of a higher social level. 

But even so, the pathetic little letters which still followed from 
time to time — ^not addressed to him in his new world (she did not 
know where he was), but to him in the old one — saying how dearly 
she loved him, how she still awaited his return, that she knew he was 
having a hard time, that she prayed always, and that all would come 
out right yet, that they would be able to be together yet! — she was 
working, saving, praying for him! True, he had the excuse that for 
the first four years he had not really made anything much, but still he 
might have done something for her, — ^might he not have? — gone back, 
persuaded her to let him go, made her comfortable, brought her 
somewhat nearer him even? Instead he had feared, feared, reasoned, 
argued. 

Yes, the then devil of his nature, his ambition, had held him com- 
pletely. He was seeing Too clearly the wonder of what he might be, 
and soon, what he was already becoming. Everything as he argued 
then and saw now would have had to be pushed aside for Marie, 
whereas what he really desired was that his great career, his greater 
days, his fame, the thing he was sure to be now — ^should push every- 
thing aside. And so — Perhaps he had become sharper, colder, 
harder, than he had ever been, quite ready to sacrifice everything and 
everybody, or nearly, until he should be the great success he meant 
to be. But long before this he might have done so much. And he had 
not — ^had not until very recently decided to revisit this older, sweeter 
world. 

But in the meantime, as he had long since learned, how the tragedy 
of her life had been completed. All at once in those earlier years all 
letters had ceased, and time slipping by — ^ten years really — ^he had be- 
gun to grow curious. Writing back to a neighbor of hers in Philadel- 
phia in a disguised hand and on nameless paper, he had learned that 
nearly two years before her father had died and that she and her 
mother and brother had moved away, the writer could not say where. 

206 



THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


Then, five years later, when he was becoming truly prosperous, he 
had learned, through a detective agency, that she and her mother and 
her ne’er-do-well brother had moved back into this very neighbor- 
hood — this old neighborhood of his and hers! — or, rather, a little far- 
ther out near the graveyard where their two boys were buried. The 
simplicity of her! The untutored homing instinct! 

But once here, according to what he had learned recently, she and 
her mother had not prospered at all. They had occupied the most 
minute of apartments farther out, and had finally been compelled to 
work in a laundry in their efforts to get along — and he was already 
so well-to-do, wealthy, really! Indeed three years before his detec- 
tives had arrived, her mother had died, and two years after that, she 
herself, of pneumonia, as had their children. Was it a message from 
her that had made him worry at that time? Was that why, only six 
months since, although married and rich and with two daughters by 
this later marriage, he had not been able to rest until he had found this 
out, returned here now to see? Did ghosts still stalk the world? 

Yes, to-day he had come back here, but only to realize once and for 
all now how futile this errand was, how cruel he had been, how 
dreary her latter days must have been in this poor, out-of-the-way 
corner where once, for a while at least, she had been happy — ^he and 
she. 

“Been happy!” 

“By God,” he suddenly exclaimed, a passion of self-reproach and 
memory overcoming him, “I can’t stand this! It was not right, not fair. 
I should not have waited so long, I should have acted long, long since. 
The cruelty — the evil! There is something cruel and evil in it all, in 
all wealth, all ambition, in love of fame — ^too cruel. I must get out! I 
must think no more — see no more.” 

And hurrying to the door and down the squeaking stairs, he walked 
swiftly back to the costly car that was waiting for him a few blocks 
away below the bridge — ^that car which was so representative of the 
realm of so-called power and success of which he was now the master 
— ^that realm which, for so long, had taken its meaningless lustre from 
all that had here preceded it — ^the misery, the loneliness, the shadow, 
the despair. And in it he was whirled swiftly and gloomily away. 


207 



THEODORE DREISER 


THEODORE DREISER was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on 
August 27, 1871. His father, a good man but a religious bigot, was not 
able to support his family. Dreiser lived his youth in poverty, and 
moved with parts of the family from one town to another in Indiana 
and Illinois as his mother and father struggled against financial adver- 
sity. Through the generosity of one of his high school teachers he spent 
a year at Indiana University. In 1892, after failing in various jobs in 
Chicago, Dreiser became a reporter on the Chicago Globe, From that 
time until 1911 he was a newspaperman, a free-lance writer, or a mag- 
azine editor. Thereafter he maintained no regular connection with any 
publication, except in 1932-34, when he was with the American Spec- 
tator, His principal activity for the rest of his life was his writing. He 
died on December 28, 1945. 

His first book was the novel Sister Carrie^ which was accepted for 
publication in 1900, but which, because of its supposed immorality, 
went through many vicissitudes before it was finally released to the 
American public in 1907. The difficulty lay in the fact that Dreiser 
explained a woman’s fall in economic and environmental, rather than 
in moral, terms, and never visited upon her any punishment for her 
sin. Jennie Qerhardt (1911) is a novel which likewise traces the career 
of a fallen woman. The Financier (1912), based on the life of a Chi- 
cago millionaire, Charles T. Yerkes, was the first volume of a trilogy 
in which Dreiser undertook to describe and explain the development 
of an American financial magnate in the days of laissez-faire. The sec- 
ond volume was The Titan (1914). The ^'‘Genius"'’ (1915), an auto- 
biographical novel whose intimate revelations seemed to some readers 
too profuse, led to a lawsuit and apparently to considerable bitterness 
on Dreiser’s part. The public, he thought, would not accept truth. 
Free and Other Stories (1918) was his first volume of short stories. 
The last novel which appeared during his life. An American Tragedy 
(1925), explains with compassion the events leading to a boy’s execu- 
tion for murder. In 1927 Chams, his only other volume of stories, was 
published. He also wrote, however, two series of sketches which are 
hardly ‘to be distinguished from stories: Twelve Men (1919) and A 
Gallery of Women (1929). Two novels were published posthumously, 
The Bulwark (1946), a mellow interpretation of the life of a Quaker, 
and The Stoic (1947), the last volume of the trilogy begun in 1912. 
Dreiser also published numerous essays, some undistinguished poetry, 
a few plays, and two volumes of a projected four- volume autobiog- 
raphy. 

Dreiser succeeded as a writer because he had a view of life which 
absorbed his whole mind and his emotions. The psychological founda- 
tion of his position was undoubtedly a passionate revolt against the 
poverty of his youth and against the religious and ethical views of his 

208 



THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


father. The mturaiistic* writers of the late nineteenth century pro- 
vided the young man with a philosophy which precisely fitted his per- 
sonal circumstances and to which he gave almost unquestioning assent. 
He saw the universe, including man, as controlled by natural law, 
which expressed itself in chemical and electrical terms. Man deluded 
himself when he believed that he had free will; his choices actually 
represented the automatic interaction between his nature and his en- 
vironment. Human life was to a great extent a struggle for material 
success. In the beginning pages of The Financier Dreiser’s young hero 
watches a lobster in a tank slowly destroy and devour a squid. The 
lobster wants food and has the necessary power to get it. The squid 
is weak and has no food upon which to sustain itself. Thus life is or- 
ganized — ^not marine life only, but human life as well. There are lob- 
sters and there are squids; the strong prey upon the weak. Humani- 
tarian considerations do not turn the strong from their purposes. 
Human ethics, Dreiser explained in The Titan, represent merely ten- 
sions, balances which are struck in order that the strong may not be- 
come too strong or the weak too weak. The cosmos that man inhabits 
is by its very nature not good, but deceitful and cruel. This is the 
gospel that Dreiser preached ponderously and passionately, with 
utter honesty and with profound pity for humanity. It accounts for 
the concern which permeates his work to explain away conventional 
notions of good and evil. 

Every man modifies in some personal way the general philosophy 
to which he assents. Dreiser differed from most naturalists in seeking to 
consider the supernatural. He frequently recorded events which seem 
to transcend ordinary natural law. For instance, he said that during the 
early days of her poverty his mother, after wishing the death of her 
three children, saw three mysterious lights float through the yard, 
foreshadowing the fulfillment of her wish. Dreiser suspected that 
mankind is used as a tool by some inconceivable beings for ends which 
are forever secret. He thought, as we have seen, that a man’s acts are 
not the result of his free choice but are highly complex, automatic re- 
sponses to stimuli. These stimuli appear to most naturalists to be only 
the complex forces of nature, within man and outside him, operating 
in accord with abstract, mindless principles known as laws of nature. 
Human acts therefore appear to be without any ultimate significance. 
But Dreiser suspected that these so-called laws are the means by which 
mysterious, omnipotent Beings control man and nature for purposes 
which are forever hidden from the human understanding. The whole 
complex pattern of each man’s life, he felt, may be shaped by a con- 
scious, supernatural will. The best statement of his beliefs about man’s 
relations to the supernatural appears in his one-act play “Laughing 
Gas,” published in flays of the Natural and Supernatural (1916). 

209 



THEODORE DREISER 


According to Dorothy Dudley, Dreiser said, “Of ail my stories for 
me ‘The Old Neighborhood’ comes nearest to art — a thing of mist, 
which art should be.” It is taken from Chains. 

The following biographies of Dreiser have recently appeared: 
Helen Dreiser, My Life with Dreiser ( 195 1 ) ; Robert H. Elias, Theodore 
Dreiser: Apostle of Nature (1949); and F. O. Matthiessen, Theodore 
Dreiser (1951). Informative criticisms are: Randolph Bourne, “The 
Art of Theodore Dreiser,” Dial^ Ixii (1917), 507-509; H. L. Mencken, 
“The Dreiser Bugaboo,” Seven Arts, ii (1917), 507-517 — also much 
expanded as “Theodore Dreiser” in A Book of Prefaces (1917), pp. 
67-148; Stuart P. Sherman, “The Naturalism of Mr. Dreiser,” Nation, 
ci (1915), 648-650; G. R. Stirling Taylor, “The United States as Seen 
by an American Writer,” Nineteenth Century, c (1926), 803-815; 
Eliseo Vivas, “Dreiser, an Inconsistent Mechanist,” International Jour- 
nal of Ethics, xlviii (1937-38), 498-508. 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Dreiser makes no attempt to build up suspense in the story, 
or to avoid repetition. Why not? Can you discern here the outlines of 
the traditional form of short-story plot?* Do you think the story 
would have been improved if it had been cast in more conventional 
form? Why does Dreiser describe the story as “a thing of mist”? Do 
you think he tries to arouse a certain mood in the reader? If so, can 
you describe the mood? 

2. Is the principal conflict within the central character, or be- 
tween him and external forces? Does Dreiser seem to feel that some of 
these forces possibly may be conscious, even malign? Or do they sim- 
ply represent the functioning of natural law in the prevailing social 
organization? 

3. Mention the values by which the central character has Hved. 
Do you think that they seemed to Dreiser representative of those of 
most successful men in our society? Thus, does Dreiser here appear as 
a naturalist? 

4. What qualities of Marie cost her her husband? Do you think 
he would return to her after he had made his fortune if he could live 
his life again? Explain. 

5. Does it seem to you that Dreiser’s vocabulary produces in the 
reader a sense of down-to-earth reality of the events in the story? If 
so, point out a few words or phrases which are effective in this respect. 
Does Dreiser sometimes introduce words from formal, literary Eng- 
lish that seem out of harmony with the general character of his lan- 
guage here? If you find such words, do they seem to you awkward in 

210 



THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD 


this context? Do the sentences seem unusually complex, rough, broken 
apart by parentheses? If so, do you think this kind of sentence struc- 
ture suitable to the story? Explain. Do you think the story may be 
unnecessarily wordy? 


211 




THE FIRST LOVER 

For over a month the 
music of their conversation had been gently rocking the pension to 
sleep. Out of the window behind their three fair heads rose the rocky 
hills of Beausoleil, so covered with little pink villas, with porcelain 
cats, and china turtles that the dignity of a bare rock rearing ugly as 
sin between the houses was enough to make the heart stand still. The 
three girls themselves were out of their own country with an elation 
signifying that everything that tasted unpleasant had been left behind. 
Such beautiful meals they were given in the pension, such fine things 
to eat, and the sunshine every day as lavish as rain. 

This was a vacation-time for them. This was the miracle of repose 
their father had given them for a little while. They filled it with rich 
excursions, hot chocolate in the afternoon and cakes, and with such 
a wealth of conversation with mere acquaintances, but still it was 
in their faces that they could not forget. They could not forget the 
lean years that lay behind them and, if they were young, still they had 
lived long enough to remember what the years and the times had done 
to their father. Professor Albatross and his fiery heart had been ex- 
tinguished. Their father had become an old man. It was only at cer- 
tain sentimental hours now that they could write to him with open 
hearts in the same way that they had been accustomed to run to him 
to dry their tears in the hairs of his beard. 

This was what they recounted with their pure faces and their con- 
tinuous letter-writing, and with their conversation about other things. 
If the eldest girl would look out of the window and say, ^^Aber father 

From The First Lover, copyright, 1933, by Kay Boyle, through Harrison 
Smith and Robert Haas, publishers; used by permission of Miss Boyle 
through her agents, Ann Watkius, Inc, 

212 


THE FIRST LOVER 


wouid certainly never have played chess after lunch on a day like this; 
he would have liked sitting in the casino gardens, especially now that 
they’ve changed the flowers again,” this was a sign for the three of 
them to sit in silence after the first words of understanding had been 
spoken. “Father. Ah, yes. Father. And the younger one would 
turn her handkerchief in her fingers. It was easy to see from what 
they said that they all loved their father very much. 

When the Englishman stepped into the dining-room one day 
at noon, surely the first thoughts of the three German girls must have 
turned to Professor Albatross. Here was a man about whom their fa- 
ther would have nodded to them in a concert hall if he had walked 
into it. Such a handsome man must surely have caught father’s atten- 
tion, and he would have looked from one to the other of them, beat- 
ing his head and smiling as if to the sound of music. 

When first he set foot in the room something sprang to life in every 
corner of it. The sight of this strange young man standing there made 
the three cradles of the German girls’ voices upset. Not even an 
nor an to meet the occasion. “An Englishman,” they ex- 

changed among them. The fresh, the sturdy, the golden cousin-ness of 
all gallant England filled them with dismay. 

“Oh, I say . . .” remarked the young Englishman. He had looked 
carefully at every little piece of the room. “I wanted a table,” he said. 
And the old lady gave him one in a minute or two. 

But while he was waiting every one had a chance to see it: the way 
his hair grew up and how his elegant head turned on his neck. He held 
his chin high, and his eyes were as blindly blue as if they had been ex- 
tinguished with a red-hot iron. All the sun of the coast had seemingly 
descended upon his cranium and was dripping down over his brows. 
Little rays of it marched across the backs of his hands. Maybe this 
beauty is the toughest; it is now the purest left in the world, thought 
the eldest girl. For an Italian must wear a color about his neck or a 
ring in his ear, but this British beauty depends on nothing at all but 
fogs that would throttle you if they could and English rains that 
would not fall in any other place. 

The Englishman sat down at the little table they had given him and 
began to crunch radishes like almonds between his teeth. He looked 
steadily out of the window into the porcelain eyes of the cats and the 


213 



KAY BOYLE 


stony doves which ornamented the garden. It seemed as if he could 
not bring himself to look into the eyes of the human faces that were 
in the room with him. The three girls had a glance for every mouth- 
ful that passed his lips. When the fresh figs were set before him he ate 
them in the English way, rippling the skin back until the fig in his 
hands bloomed open like a fiower. 

There seemed to be nothing in any part of him that had survived a 
spectacle of pain. Surely, thought the eldest girl, he had never been 
beset, and if ever he had been sore in his heart for love or food, he had 
put that carefully aside. Everything on his plate he took for granted, 
even the salt in its shaker was the customary thing. He had never been 
touched at ail, she was thinking, nor had he any idea that people 
sometimes had less or did without. 

Everything that had ever happened to them, she would keep to her- 
self. In her bones it would reside, and he would not know that for 
years they had been like mice lean for a crumb. Not a drop of his 
blood would ever sound the poverty of the years that ran be- 
hind them. They were in a new country of greed and plenty and they 
would forget, by turning their faces away, they would forget every- 
thing that had made their hearts like winter apples. 

‘‘^Lieblinge^^^ said the eldest girl to her sisters, “we must do our nails 
and behave like princesses.” 

They had to drop their lids to cover the jubilation in their 
eyes. This was the reward they owed Professor Albatross. What a rec- 
ompense to the old man if his three daughters could between them 
bear back to him this evidence of health and prosperity, this assurance 
that all was well Whether it was the state of his flesh or something 
else besides that gave the Englishman his temper of wealth and em- 
pire, they did not know. But his it was, and merely the sight of it 
would surely be enough to revive the old man’s courage. 

When the Englishman had finished eating he dabbed at his mouth 
with his napkin and then placed it in a little heap by the side of his 
plate. He had not tied it into a bowknot, as others had done, or made 
it into a butterfly. He had eaten well, but with such dispatch. He 
walked out of the dining-room with his own standard set relentlessly 
upon him. He would recognize nothing short of health and austerity. 
Whatever he stood for had a name, and he would accept nothing less. 

214 



THE FIRST LOVER 


He walked directly out into the back garden after lunch, and from 
their window the three German girls could see him. They stood in 
their bedroom, behind the folds of the curtains, and relished the rosy 
backs of his ears and his narrow wrists crossed behind him as 
he walked. Suddenly he swung about and sat down in a wicker chair, 
and they started back from the window in fright. But his clear gaze 
and his short straight nose were pointing off towards Monte Carlo. 
Surely he did not even know the three girls were there. 

A strange sort of defiance for one another was in their eyes, and 
the eldest knew that it was she herself who must say what was to be 
said. She turned from the window and picked up her embroidery 
hoop and its veil of work from the table. The prosperity of this cloth 
with a fresh skein of white silk to it was equally as far from anything 
they had ever known. They had never before had time for embroi- 
dery until they had come to this affluent land. Beyond the window 
they could see the Englishman with an ivory part running through 
his hair. He was reading the London Times in the sun, with his legs 
stretched out before him and his ankles in gray socks crossed like a 
silver chain. Suddenly the eldest girl ran to her sisters to hide her eyes 
and her blushes in the soft turn of their shoulders. 

“He looks so welir she whispered, and the wind of her breath in 
their necks made them shriek softly with laughter. “As if he had 
never been hungry!” 

She was laughing, too, but her eyes were crying. She stood before 
them, laughing, with her small hands covering her face. 

He must have seen so many beautiful clothes, she was thinking. 
There was nothing she could wear that would catch his attention at 
all. She stood in the room with her two sisters, thinking of how she 
would speak to him. Not at dinner, for there would be too many peo- 
ple at the tables, but when he would perhaps walk out into the gar- 
den after having eaten, and she would throw a little scarf over her 
shoulders and follow him. In her mind she could hear the sound of 
her own tentative ^^bitte, following in his wake. But however 

she thought of him she could not forget the forbidding set of his jaw 
when he bit into his bread. 

She would make up some kind of a fine story about their lives, 
which had remained at home while surely he was traveling every- 


215 



KAY BOYLS 


where. ‘Tour countrymen and you, you are forever traveling for 
beauty” was one of the things that she would say. She would talk of 
her father — ^Baron Albatross; jah, why not a baron? — and of the idle- 
ness and poetry that had nourished them. With all of Germany suffer- 
ing in one way or another, she would say to him, it was strange but 
true that they had never known any suffering at all. It was her 
father’s high position that had protected them. She would say it so 
many times, over and over, that she would make it true. 

“Do you ever come to Munich?” she would ask him. 

By the time he came to Munich, she was thinking, by that time he 
would be in love. By that time his heart would be winged like 
an archangel, and he would not care if she were rich or poor. And if 
there were a moment of silence in the garden after dinner, or a pause 
of any kind between ail the things they had to say, she would go on, 
“My two little sisters are with me. . . .” Suddenly she kissed their 
faces. 

“Oh, don’t even mention us to him!” they whispered. “He is to be 
for you. He is to be your lover. We want him to be yours.” 

She was thinking that she must carry herself like a rich lady, and 
that any plaintiveness at ail must be kept out of her voice. No prithee, 
do, please, pray. No insomuch as, but “Indeed, you must visit 
our prosperous city. . . .” “If only I could wear four pairs of earrings 
at once,” she was thinking. She looked at her wan face in the glass. 

“I must smile,” she said. 

She crossed the room to the window to see if he were still sitting in 
the sun. The newspaper had dropped from liis fingers and he was 
there, reflecting, dreaming, and pondering, deeply meditating. She 
wondered what dreams were in his head. And then suddenly the Eng- 
lishman turned and looked up into her face. 

If a blush had sought to shame him for his impertinence, it perished 
in the relentless pride of his race. He lifted one hand to shade his eyes, 
and then he got to his feet. The German girl was clinging, half- 
swooning, to the window-frame. 

The Englishman cleared his throat. 

“You’re not by any chance . . he said, talking up from the gar- 
den, “I mean to say, I saw your names on the register a while ago . . . 
I dare say yours. Are you by any chance daughters of Professor Al- 


216 



THE FIRST LOVER 


batross of Munich? I must have studied with your father — ^physics — 
at least, if he is.” 

‘‘Yes,” said the German girl. 

Her voice could scarcely be heard. Her fingernails had turned 
white upon the sill. 

“Yes,” she said. 

Her face was so contorted that her sisters scarcely knew her. 

“Professor Albatross,” she whispered out of the window. “Yes.” 

The two sisters saw her face hanging in anguish at the window. 
They themselves were too stricken to summon a word of response. 
She was standing with her mouth hanging open. She could not make 
another sound. 

“Fancy running into you here,” said the Englishman. 

Behind her hung the deathly silence — grosse Seelen dulden still — 
with now and again the whisper of her sisters’ breathing like the flight 
of a mouse across the room. The Englishman was standing with one 
hand in his pocket, and the other lifted to shade his eyes. 

“Fancy,” he said. With this he gave a little nod of his head. 

“I just stopped off for lunch here,” he said. 

He smiled up at the German girl in the window, and with this he 
walked into the house, leaving the three sisters to one another. They 
turned around upon one another in some kind of fury that had never 
possessed them before. Their eyes were warm, and their teeth were 
strung like pearls across their faces. They had so much to say to one 
another that they didn’t know where to begin. 

KAY BOYLE was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on February 19, 
1903. She was taken to Europe for a short time when she was six 
months old, and upon their return her family moved from place to 
place in this country for several years. They then settled in Washing- 
ton, suffered reverses, and moved to Cincinnati, where her father be- 
came a garage owner. Miss Boyle studied music in the local conserva- 
tory, and for a time was telephone operator in her father’s garage. 
Near the age of twenty^ while in New York, trying her hand at free- 
lance reviewing and poetry writing, she married Richard Brault, a 
French engineering student from the University of Cincinnati. The 
couple went to France to live, and Miss Boyle remained in Europe for 
nearly twenty years. In 1931 she divorced her husband, and early in 
1932 she married Lawrence Vail, a writer, whom she has since di- 


217 



KAY BOYLE 


vorced. Her health has long been delicate, and she is compelled to live 
as much as possible in warm or in mountainous regions. Caught by 
the German invasion of France, she was unable to leave Europe for a 
year after the French defeat; but she and her family managed to reach 
America by air in 1941. In 1947 she returned to Europe. She lives in 
Germany with her third husband, who is with the American Military 
Government. 

Miss Boyle owes her reputation to her short stories and novels, 
though she has also published a small amount of very personal poetry. 
Her first novel was Plagued by the Nightingale (1931), which tells in 
sensitive, suggestive language the story of an American girl’s struggle 
against the suffocating influence of her French husband’s decadent 
and diseased family. Her next, Year before Last (1932), concerns an- 
other American girl in France, who deserts her husband to live pre- 
cariously with a tubercular magazine editor, Qentlemen^ 1 Address 
You Privately (1933) is a novel in which the allusiveness of her style 
and her demand that the reader understand delicate implications are 
carried to such extremes that she becomes virtually uncommunicative. 
My Next Bride (1934) deals with an inconsequential artists’ colony 
in Paris. Death of a Mail (1936) is more effective; it presents sympa- 
thetically the love and struggles of a Nazi physician in Austria before 
the Anschluss. Monday Night (1938) is an intelligent but slow-moving 
detective story. Probably her most successful novels are three short 
ones which appeared in The Crazy Hunter (1940). The brief partici- 
pation of France in World War 11 afforded Miss Boyle the background 
for a novel called Primer for Combat (1942), which takes the form 
of the diary of an American wife living in France for the first few 
months after the surrender. 

When she returned to America, Miss Boyle expressed a desire to 
write for the slick magazines, but doubted her ability to do so. She 
made the attempt, however, and, perhaps unfortunately, succeeded. 
The result was two “elegant potboilers” about France during and 
immediately after the occupation, Avalanche (1944) and A French- 
man Must Die (1946). Her next novel, 1939 (1948), shows the effects 
of the outbreak of World War 11 upon a French woman and her lover. 
His Human Majesty (1949) is an excellent story of the training of 
American ski-troopers in Colorado. 

Miss Boyle seems always to have been concerned more with liter- 
ary technique than with ideas, though one detects in her work a pas- 
sionate belief in the importance and dignity of the individual and a 
profound respect for loyalty. Her novels, though most of them are of 
high quality, have always promised somewhat more than they ac- 
tually achieve. Critics complain of a lack of architecture in them, a 
lack which is a result of her concern with the flavor, the implications, 

218 



THE FIRST LOVER 


the particularized quality of the individual scenes of which the novels 
are composed. She is known as a stylist, and deservedly. Her use of 
language is bold. She succeeds in writing in an individualized idiom, 
rich in metaphor, which is controlled by her poetic sensitivity. But 
these qualities do not give shape and progress to her novels; they pro- 
duce, instead, a series of admirably imagined and interpreted scenes. 
As a result Miss Boyle seems most at home as a writer of short stories, 
in which she delicately and with great sensitivity explores a single 
scene or a single action. 

Her first collection of stories, called simply Short Stories^ was pub- 
lished in a very limited edition in Paris in 1929. Thereafter collections 
appeared in the following order: Wedding Day and Other Stories 
(1930), which contained everything published in the preceding 
volume as well as some new material; The First Lover and Other 
Stories (1933); The White Horses of Vienna (1936); Thirty Storks 
(1946), which reprinted material representing Miss Boyle’s entire life 
as a creative artist up to that time; and The Smoking Mountain (1951). 
She has three times been given an O. Henry Memorial Award. 

“The First Lover” is taken from The First Lover and Other Stories, 
First published in 1931, it was an O. Henry Memorial Award story in 
1932. 

Good criticisms of Miss Boyle’s work are Struthers Burt, “The Ma- 
ture Craft of Kay Boyle,” Saturday Review of Literature, xxix 
(Nov. 30, 1946), 11; and Evelyn Hartor, “Kay Boyle: Experimenter,” 
Bookman (American), Ixxv (June and July, 1932), 249-253. 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Notice carefully exactly what the Englishman does in the 
story. Which, if any, of his acts can you object to, on any grounds 
which you may wish to choose? Does Miss Boyle dislike him? Why, in 
your opinion, does she describe his eyes as “blindly blue”? Describe 
exhaustively the suggestions of the phrase. Why does the author make 
the person who gets a table for him an “old lady”? Discuss the sug- 
gestive qualities of the phrase “crunch radishes like almonds between 
his teeth.” Are there qualities of this man which Miss Boyle, or at least 
the German girls, seem to admire? What do you think she is trying to 
suggest in the words “rippling the skin back until the fig in his hands 
bloomed open like a fiower”? Is the Englishman individualized, or is 
he a type? Would you describe the author’s attitude toward him as 
quite subjective?* 

2. Can you characterize the German girls? Are they distin- 
guished from each other? Why do you think Miss Boyle refers to the 
“three cradles of the German girls’ voices”? Why is the eldest daugh- 

219 



KAY BOYLE 


ter very embarrassed when the Englishman addresses them? (Do not 
try to answer this question too simply.) Comment carefully upon the 
meaning of the last three sentences of the story. To what extent, in 
your opinion, do the girls see the Englishman realistically? Are these 
girls important as individuals or as types? Whichever way you answer, 
consider as well as you can the suitability of characters who are prin- 
cipally types rather than individuals to be the protagonists in fiction. 

3. You are given several hints in the story concerning what has 
made the German girls the kind of people they are. Consider these. 
What part does Professor Albatross seem to have played? World War 
I? What is the girls’ attitude toward their father? 

4. Which of the men in the story was the first lover? What is the 
theme'*' of the story? Does Miss Boyle make the situation in the story 
appear dramatic? If so, has she had to falsify it to make it so? Or has 
she actually interpreted? 

5. Does Miss Boyle seem to you a very sensitive author? Why 
or why not? 


220 




COU NTERPARTS 

The bell rang furiously and, 
when Miss Parker went to the tube, a furious voice called out in a 
piercing North of Ireland accent: 

“Send Farrington here!” 

Miss Parker returned to her machine, saying to a man who was 
writing at a desk: 

“Mr. Alleyne wants you upstairs.” 

The man muttered ‘^Blast him!” under his breath and pushed back 
his chair to stand up. When he stood up he was tall and of great bulk. 
He had a hanging face, dark wine-coloured, with fair eyebrows and 
moustache: his eyes bulged forward sHghtly and the whites of them 
were dirty. He lifted up the counter and, passing by the clients, went 
out of the office with a heavy step. 

He went heavily upstairs until he came to the second landing, where 
a door bore a brass plate with the inscription Mr. Alleyne. Here he 
halted, puffing with labour and vexation, and knocked. The shrill 
voice cried: 

“Come in!” 

The man entered Mr. AUeyne’s room. Simultaneously Mr. Alleyne, 
a little man wearing gold-rimmed glasses on a clean-shaven face, shot 
his head up over a pile of documents. The head itself was so pink and 
hairless it seemed like a large egg reposing on the papers. Mr. Alleyne 
did not lose a moment: 

From Dubliners, included in The Portable James Joyce, copyright, 1946, 
1947, by The Viking Press, Inc. Reprinted by permission of The Viking 
Press, Inc., New York. 


221 


JAMES JOYCE 


“Farrington? What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to 
complain of you? May I ask you why you haven’t made a copy of that 
contract between Bodley and Kirwan? I told you it must be ready 
by four o’clock.” 

“But Mr. Shelley said, sir ” 

“Mr, Shelley said, sir. . . . Kindly attend to what I say and not to 
what Mr, Shelley says, sir. You have always some excuse or another 
for shirking work. Let me tell you that if the contract is not copied 
before this evening I’ll lay the matter before Mr. Crosbie. . . . Do 
you hear me now?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Do you hear me now? . . . Ay and another little matter! I might 
as well be talking to the wall as talking to you. Understand once for 
all that you get a half an hour for your lunch and not an hour and a 
half. How many courses do you want, I’d like to know. ... Do you 
mind me now?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

Mr, Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. The man 
stared fixedly at the polished skull which directed the affairs of 
Crosbie & Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped his 
throat for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sen- 
sation of thirst. The man recognised the sensation and felt that he 
must have a good night’s drinking. The middle of the month was 
passed and, if he could get the copy done in time, Mr. Alleyne might 
give him an order on the cashier. He stood still, gazing fixedly at the 
head upon the pile of papers. Suddenly Mr. Alleyne began to upset 
all the papers, searching for something. Then, as if he had been un- 
aware of the man’s presence till that moment, he shot up his head 
again, saying: 

“Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word, Far- 
rington, you take things easy!” 

“I was waiting to see . . •” 

“Ver}^ good, you needn’t wait to see. Go downstairs and do your 
work.” 

The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of 
the room, he heard Mr. Alleyne cry after him that if the contract was 
not copied by evening Mr. Crosbie would hear of the matter. 

222 



COUNTERPARTS 


He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets 
which remained to be copied. He took up his pen and dipped it in the 
ink but he continued to stare stupidly at the last words he had writ- 
ten: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be » The evening was 
falling and in a few minutes they would be lighting the gas: then he 
could write. He felt that he must slake the thirst in his throat. He 
stood up from his desk and, lifting the counter as before, passed out 
of the office. As he was passing out the chief clerk looked at him in- 
quiringly. 

“It’s all right, Mr. Shelley,” said the man, pointing with his finger 
to indicate the objective of his journey. 

The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack, but, seeing the row com- 
plete, offered no remark. As soon as he was on the landing the man 
pulled a shepherd’s plaid cap out of his pocket, put it on his head and 
ran quickly down the rickety stairs. From the street door he walked 
on furtively on the inner side of the path towards the corner and all 
at once dived into a doorway. He was now safe in the dark snug of 
O’Neill’s shop, and, filling up the little window that looked into the 
bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he 
called out: 

“Here, Pat, give us a g.p., like a good fellow.” 

The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it 
at a gulp and asked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the 
counter and, leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated 
out of the snug as furtively as he had entered it. 

Darkness, accompanied by a thick fog, was gaining upon the dusk 
of February and the lamps in Eustace Street had been lit. The man 
went up by the houses until he reached the door of the office, won- 
dering whether he could finish his copy in time. On the stairs a moist 
pungent odour of perfumes saluted his nose: evidently Miss Delacour 
had come while he was out in O’Neill’s. He crammed his cap back 
again into his pocket and re-entered the office, assuming an air of 
absent-mindedness. 

“Mr. Alleyne has been calling for you,” said the chief clerk se- 
verely. “Where were you?” 

The man glanced at the two clients who were standing at the 
counter as if to intimate that their presence prevented him from an- 


223 



JAMES JOYCE 


swering. As the clients were both male the chief clerk allowed him- 
self a laugh. 

“I know that game,” he said. “Five times in one day is a little bit. 

. • . Well, you better look sharp and get a copy of our correspond- 
ence in the Delacour case for Mr. Alleyne.” 

This address in the presence of the public, his run upstairs and the 
porter he had gulped down so hastily confused the man and, as he 
sat down at his desk to get what was required, he realised how hope- 
less was the task of finishing his copy of the contract before half past 
five. The dark damp night was coming and he longed to spend it in 
the bars, drinking with his friends amid the glare of gas and the clat- 
ter of glasses. He got out the Delacour correspondence and passed 
out of the office. He hoped Mr. Alleyne would not discover that the 
last two letters were missing. 

The moist pungent perfume lay all the way up to Mr. Alleyne’s 
room. Miss Delacour was a middle-aged woman of Jewish appear- 
ance. Mr. Alleyne was said to be sweet on her or on her money. She 
came to the office often and stayed a long time when she came. She 
was sitting beside his desk now in an aroma of perfumes, smoothing 
the handle of her umbrella and nodding the great black feather in her 
hat. Mr. Alleyne had swivelled his chair round to face her and thrown 
his right foot jauntily upon his left knee. The man put the corre- 
spondence on the desk and bowed respectfully but neither Mr. 
Alleyne nor Miss Delacour took any notice of his bow. Mr. Alleyne 
tapped a finger on the correspondence and then flicked it towards 
him as if to say: ^^Thafs all right: you can goP 

The man returned to the lo'wer office and sat down again at his 
desk. He stared intently at the incomplete phrase: In no case shall 
the said Bernard Bodley be .. . and thought how strange it was that 
the last three words began with the same letter. The chief clerk began 
to hurry Miss Parker, saying she would never have the letters typed 
in time for post. The man listened to the clicking of the machine for 
a few minutes and then set to work to finish his copy. But his head 
was not clear and his mind wandered away to the glare and rattle of 
the public-house. It was a night for hot punches. He struggled on 
with his copy, but when the clock struck five he had still fourteen 
pages to write. Blast it! He couldn’t finish it in time. He longed to 

224 



COUNTERPARTS 


execrate aloud, to bring his fist down on something violently. He was 
so enraged that he wrote Bernard Bernard instead of Bernard Bodley 
and had to begin again on a clean sheet. 

He felt strong enough to clear out the whole office single-handed. 
His body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence. 
All the indignities of his life enraged him. . . . Could he ask the cash- 
ier privately for an advance? No, the cashier was no good, no damn 
good: he wouldn’t give an advance. . . . He Imew where he would 
meet the boys: Leonard and O’Halloran and Nosey Flynn. The ba- 
rometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot. 

His imagination had so abstracted him that his name was called 
twice before he answered. Mr. Alleyne and Miss Delacour were 
standing outside the counter and all the clerks had turned round in 
anticipation of something. The man got up from his desk. Mr. 
Alleyne began a tirade of abuse, saying that two letters were missing. 
The man answered that he knew nothing about them, that he had 
made a faithful copy. The tirade continued: it was so bitter and vio- 
lent that the man could hardly restrain his fist from descending upon 
the head of the manikin before him: 

“I know nothing about any other two letters,” he said stupidly. 

“Fez/ — know — nothing. Of course you know nothing,” said Mr. 
Alleyne. “Tell me,” he added, glancing first for approval to the lady 
beside him, “do you take me for a fool? Do you think me an utter 
fool?” 

The man glanced from the lady’s face to the little egg-shaped head 
and back again; and, almost before he was aware of it, his tongue had 
t found a felicitous moment: 

“I don’t think, sir,” he said, “that that’s a fair question to put to 
me.” 

There was a pause in the very breathing of the clerks. Everyone 
was astounded (the author of the witticism no less than his neigh- 
bours) and Miss Delacour, who was a stout amiable person, began to 
smile broadly. Mr. Alleyne flushed to the hue of a wild rose and his 
mouth twitched with a dwarf’s passion. He shook his fist in the man’s 
face till it seemed to vibrate like the knob of some electric machine: 

“You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I’ll make short 
work of you! Wait till you see! You’ll apologise to me for your Im-* 


225 



JAMES JOYCE 


pertinence or you’ll quit the office instanter! You’ll quit this, I’m tell- 
ing you, or you’ll apologise to me!” 

He stood in a doorway opposite the office watching to see if the 
cashier would come out alone. All the clerks passed out and finally 
the cashier came out with the chief clerk. It was no use trying to say 
a word to him when he was with the chief clerk. The man felt that 
his position was bad enough. He had been obliged to offer an abject 
apology to Mr. Alleyne for his impertinence but he knew what a 
hornet’s nest the office would be for him. He could remember the 
way in which Mr. Alleyne had hounded little Peake out of the office 
in order to make room for his own nephew. He felt savage and thirsty 
and revengeful, annoyed with himself and with everyone else. Mr. 
Alleyne would never give him an hour’s rest; his life would be a hell 
to him. He had made a proper fool of himself this time. Could he 
not keep his tongue in his cheek? But they had never pulled together 
from the first, he and Mr. Alleyne, ever since the day Mr. Alleyne 
had overheard him mimicking his North of Ireland accent to amuse 
Higgins and Miss Parker: that had been the beginning of it. He might 
have tried Higgins for the money, but sure Higgins never had any- 
thing for himself. A man with two establishments to keep up, of 
course he couldn’t. . . . 

He felt his great body again aching for the comfort of the public- 
house. The fog had begun to chill him and he wondered could he 
touch Pat in O’Neill’s, He could not touch him for more than a bob— 
and a bob was no use. Yet he must get money somewhere or other: 
he had spent his last penny for the g.p, and soon it would be too late 
for getting money anywhere. Suddenly, as he was fingering his watch- 
chain, he thought of Terry Kelly’s pawn-office in Fleet Street. That 
was the dart! Why didn’t he think of it sooner? 

He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly, mutter- 
ing to himself that they could all go to hell because he w^as going to 
have a good night of it. The clerk in Terry Kelly’s said A crown! but 
the consignor held out for six shillings; and in the end the six shillings 
was allowed him literally. He came out of the pawn-office joyfully, 
making a little cylinder of the coins between his thumb and fingers. 
In Westmoreland Street the footpaths were crowded with young 

226 



COUNTERPARTS 


men and women returning from business and ragged urchins ran here 
and there yelling out the names of the evening editions. The man 
passed through the crowd, looking on the spectacle generally with 
proud satisfaction and staring masterfully at the ofiice-girls. His head 
was full of the noises of tram-gongs and swishing trolleys and his nose 
already sniffed the curling fumes of punch. As he walked on he pre- 
considered the terms in which he would narrate the incident to the 
boys: 

“So, I just looked at him — coolly, you know, and looked at her. 
Then I looked back at him again — ^taking my time, you know. T don’t 
think that that’s a fair question to put to me,’ says I.” 

Nosey Flynn was sitting up in his usual corner of Davy Byrne’s 
and, when he heard the story, he stood Farrington a half-one, say- 
ing it was as smart a thing as ever he heard. Farrington stood a drink 
in his turn. After a while O’Halloran and Paddy Leonard came in 
and the story was repeated to them. O’Halloran stood tailors of malt, 
hot, all round and told the story of the retort he had made to the 
chief clerk when he was in Callan’s of Fownes’s Street; but, as the 
retort was after the manner of the liberal shepherds in the eclogues, 
he had to admit that it was not as clever as Farrington’s retort. At this 
Farrington told the boys to polish off that and have another. 

Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but Hig- 
gins! Of course he had to join in with the others. The men asked him 
to give his version of it, and he did so with great vivacity for the sight 
of five small hot whiskies was very exhilarating. Everyone roared 
laughing when he showed the way in which Mr. Alleyne shook his 
fist in Farrington’s face. Then he imitated Farrington, saying, ^^And 
here was my nabs, as cool as you please,^'* while Farrington looked at 
the company out of his heavy dirty eyes, smiling and at times draw- 
ing forth stray drops of liquor from his moustache with the aid of 
his lower lip. 

When that round was over there was a pause. O’Halloran had 
money but neither of the other two seemed to have any; so the whole 
party left the shop somewhat regretfully. At the corner of Duke 
Street Higgins and Nosey Flynn bevelled off to the left while the 
other three turned back towards the city. Rain was drizzling down 
on the cold streets and, when they reached the Ballast Office, Farring- 


227 



JAMES JOYCE 


ton suggested the Scotch House. The bar was full of men and loud 
with the noise of tongues and glasses. The three men pushed past the 
whining match-sellers at the door and formed a little party at the 
corner of the counter. They began to exchange stories. Leonard intro- 
duced them to a young fellow named Weathers who was performing 
at the Tivoli as an acrobat and knockabout artiste, Farrington stood a 
drink all round. Weathers said he would take a small Irish and Apol- 
linaris. Farrington, who had definite notions of what was what, asked 
the boys would they have an Apollinaris too; but the boys told Tim 
to make theirs hot. The talk became theatrical OHalloran stood a 
round and then Farrington stood another round, Weathers protesting 
that the hospitality was too Irish. He promised to get them in behind 
the scenes and introduce them to some nice girls. O’Halloran said that 
he and Leonard would go, but that Farrington wouldn’t go because 
he was a married man; and Farrington’s heavy dirty eyes leered at 
the company in token that he understood he was being chaffed. 
Weathers made them all have just one little tincture at his expense and 
promised to meet them later on at Mulligan’s in Poolbeg Street. 

When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan’s. 
They went into the parlour at the back and O’Halloran ordered 
small hot specials all round. They were all beginning to feel mellow. 
Farrington was just standing another round when Weathers came 
back. Much to Farrington’s relief he drank a glass of bitter this time. 
Funds were getting low but they had enough to keep them going. 
Presently two young women with big hats and a young man in a 
check suit came in and sat at a table close by. Weathers saluted them 
and told the company that they were out of the Tivoli. Farrington’s 
eyes wandered at every moment in the direction of one of the young 
women. There was something striking in her appearance. An immense 
scarf of peacock-blue muslin was wound round her hat and knotted 
in a great bow under her chin; and she wore bright yellow gloves, 
reaching to the elbow. Farrington gazed admiringly at the plump 
arm which she moved very often and with^much grace; and when, 
after a little time, she answered his gaze he admired still more her 
large dark brown eyes. The oblique staring expression in them fas- 
cinated him. She glanced at him once or twice and, when the party 
was leaving the room, she brushed against his chair and said par-' 

228 



COUNTERPARTS 


donP^ in a London accent. He watched her leave the room in the hope 
that she would look back at him, but he was disappointed. He cursed 
his want of money and cursed all the rounds he had stood, particu- 
larly all the whiskies and Apollinaris which he had stood to Weathers. 
If there was one thing that he hated it was a sponge. He was so angry 
that he lost count of the conversation of his friends. 

When Paddy Leonard called him he found that they were talking 
about feats of strength. Weathers was showing his biceps muscle to 
the company and boasting so much that the other two had called on 
Farrington to uphold the national honour. Farrington pulled up his 
sleeve accordingly and showed his biceps muscle to the company. The 
two arms were examined and compared and finally it was agreed to 
have a trial of strength. The table was cleared and the two men rested 
their elbows on it, clasping hands. When Paddy Leonard said “G 
each was to try to bring down the other’s hand on to the table. Far- 
rington looked very serious and determined. 

The trial began. After about thirty seconds Weathers brought his 
opponent’s hand slowly down on to the table. Farrington’s dark wine- 
coloured face flushed darker still with anger and humiliation at hav- 
ing been defeated by such a stripling. 

“You’re not to put the weight of your body behind it. Play fair,” 
he said. 

“Who’s not playing fair? ” said the other. 

“Come on again. The two best out of three.” 

The trial began again. The veins stood out on Farrington’s fore- 
head, and the pallor of Weathers’ complexion changed to peony. 
Their hands and arms trembled under the stress. After a long struggle 
Weathers again brought his opponent’s hand slowly on to the table. 
There was a murmur of applause from the spectators. The curate, 
who was standing beside the table, nodded his red head towards the 
victor and said with stupid familiarity; 

“Ah! that’s the knack!” 

“What the hell do you know about it?” said Farrington fiercely, 
turning on the man. “What do you put in your gab for?” 

“Sh, sh!” said O’Halloran, observing the violent expression of Far- 
rington’s face. “Pony up, boys. We’ll have just one little smahan more 
and then we’ll be off.” 


229 



JAMES JOYCE 


A very sullen-faced man stood at the comer of O’Connell Bridge 
waiting for the little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was 
full of smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated and 
discontented; he did not even feel drunk; and he had only twopence 
in his pocket. He cursed everything. He had done for himself in the 
office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and he had not even 
got drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he longed to be back 
again in the hot reeking public-house. He- had lost his reputation as 
a strong man, having been defeated twice by a mere boy. His heart 
swelled with fury and, when he thought of the woman in the big hat 
who had brushed against him and said Far don! his fury nearly choked 
him. 

His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great 
body along in the shadow of the wall of the barracks. He loathed re- 
turning to his home. When he went in by the side-door he found the 
kitchen empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. He bawled upstairs: 

“Ada! Ada!” 

His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband 
when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk. They 
had five children. A little boy came running down the stairs. 

“Who is that? ” said the man, peering through the darkness. 

“Me, pa.” 

“Who are you? Charlie?” 

“No, pa. Tom.” 

“Where’s your mother?” 

“She’s out at the chapel.” 

“That’s right. . . . Did she think of leaving any dinner for me?” 

“Yes, pa. I ” 

“Light the lamp. What do you mean by having the place in dark- 
ness? Are the other children in bed?” 

The man sat down heavily on one of the chairs while the little boy 
lit the lamp. He began to mimic his son’s flat accent, saying half to 
himself: the chapel At the chapel, if you pleaseF When the 

lamp was lit he banged his fist on the table and shouted: 

“What’s for my dinner?” 

“Fm going ... to cook it, pa,” said the little boy. 

The man jumped up* furiously and pointed to the fire. 

230 



COUNTERPARTS 


“On that fire! You let the fire out! By God, 111 teach you to do 
that again!” 

He took a step to the door and seized the walking-stick which was 
standing behind it. 

“Ill teach you to let the fire out!” he said, rolling up his sleeve in 
order to give his arm free play. 

The little boy cried “O, paP" and ran whimpering round the table, 
but the man followed him and caught him by the coat. The little boy 
looked about him wildly but, seeing no way of escape, fell upon his 
knees. 

“Now, youll let the fire out the next time!” said the man, striking 
at him vigorously with the stick. “Take that, you little whelp!” 

The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. He 
clasped his hands together in the air and his voice shook with fright. 

“O, pa!” he cried. “Don’t beat me, pa! And 111 . . . Ill say a Hail 
Mary for you. . . . I’ll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don’t beat 
me. . . . Ill say a Hail Mary, . . 

JAMES JOYCE James Augustine Joyce, the first child of John 
Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane Murray, was born in Dublin, Ireland, 
on February 2, 1882. As he grew up, the family moved from one house 
to another, almost always to a poorer one, because the father had small 
talent for keeping his hands on money. Joyce was educated entirely 
in Jesuit schools. When he was six and a half he was sent to Clon- 
gowes Wood College, perhaps the most fashionable Jesuit school in 
Ireland at that time, where he stayed until the spring of 1891. After 
spending two years at home, he began a five-year stay in Belvedere 
College, Dublin. In 1898 he entered University College, Dublin, from 
which he received his B.A, degree in 1902. Before graduation he had 
written an essay on Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian dramatist, to him 
the giant of the older generation of authors, a man in whom Joyce saw 
freedom from conventionality and nationality, a man who went where 
his artistic integrity directed. Joyce learned Danish in order to read 
Ibsen in the original The publication of his essay “Ibsen’s New 
Drama” in the Fortnightly Review of April, 1900, was a considerable 
accomplishment for a young man of eighteen. In 1902 his essay on the 
Irish poet James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849) was published. Mangan 
had strengthened the aesthetic tendency which, together with the real- 
ism and symbolism to be found in Ibsen, strongly marks all of Joyce’s 
later work. In the two essays may be found many of the suggestions 
and emphases developed in his fiction. These early years left their 

231 



JAMES JOYCE 


mark on Joyce in another way: the Dublin of his youth is central in 
his work. Although he lived little in Dublin after 1904, the city he had 
come to know so thoroughly during his youth and early manhood is 
the capital of his literary world. 

With his formal education ended, Joyce went to Paris to write. He 
almost starved, as his notebooks show. When his mother died in 1903, 
he returned to Dublin for a little over a year, but thereafter he lived 
and traveled in many parts of Europe. He taught English in a Berlitz 
school and later as an independent teacher. This work, although dis- 
tasteful to him, w^as his chief means of livelihood while he lived in 
Trieste, Austria, and later in Zurich, Switzerland. For a few months he 
translated correspondence in a bank in Rome and tried to establish a 
chain of movie theaters in Ireland. During the latter part of his life, 
after his work had begun to attract attention in an ever-widening cir- 
cle, several admirers gave him money so that he could write unham- 
pered by worry over finances. His eyes, weak from his early youth, 
caused him much anxiety and suffering; numerous operations were 
necessary in order to preserve even partial sight. He died on January 
13, 1941. 

Joyce wrote poems, plays, short stories, and novels. His two vol- 
umes of poetry. Chamber Music (1907) and Fomes Fenyeach (1927), 
while showing his interest in tradition, his love of words, and his abil- 
ity to recapturefthe spirit and form of earlier English lyric poetry, are 
unimportant in his total work. Nor is his one published play, Exiles 
(1918), significant except in showing his continuing interest in Ibsen 
and his inability to characterize within dramatic limits. His greatest 
achievements are in fiction. His volume of short stories, Dubliners^ 
was accepted for publication in 1906 but was not published until 1914; 
what was then considered overfrankness in some of the stories led the 
printer and the publisher to demand cutting and revision which 
Joyce’s integrity and love of truth could not permit. In his superb 
autobiographical novel, A Fortrait of the Artist as a Young Man 
(1916), he was one of the first to use, though slightly and apparently 
unwittingly, the stream-of-consciousness technique.* Part of an earlier 
version of this novel, published in 1944 under the title Stephen Hero, 
though more discursive than A Fortrait and not as carefully con- 
structed, reveals Joyce’s searching for effective dialogue and character- 
ization. Ulysses, published in Paris in 1922 and barred from the United 
States until 1933, is probably his greatest work, a classic of stream- 
of-consciousness fiction. A novel of almost 800 pages, it deals with 
one day in Dublin in 1904, one day in the lives of Leopold Bloom and 
Molly his wife, of Stephen Dedalus (an approximation of Joyce, as in 
A Fortrait), and of others who come in contact with the chief char- 
acters. His last work, Finnegans Wake (1939), is the most difficult of 
his writings because of its radical experimentation with language and 

232 



COUNTERPARTS 


its dealing with the realities of the mind asleep. In it one can, if with 
considerable difficulty, find the key to Joyce the Irishman and Joyce 
the cosmopolitan, the citizen of the world who draws references and 
allusions from practically all of world literature. 

Possibly Joyce has had more influence upon English literary form 
and style than any other writer of his time. In a novel of Edouard 
Dujardin, Les Lauriers sont coupes (1887), which appeared in an Eng- 
lish translation as WeHl to the Woods No More (1938), Joyce found 
the interior or internal monologue which he used to reflect the stream 
of consciousness. Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, Ernest Hem- 
ingway, William Faulkner, and many others have since used this 
style. In the stream-of-consciousness technique the author seeks in- 
ternal reality by going within the mind of a character to follow that 
character’s thoughts. Trivial and weighty thoughts may be equally 
significant in revealing reality thus interpreted. Action and physical 
description are of less importance than the flow of thought. Freudian 
psychology helped Joyce to form this conception of reality, which is 
entirely different from the traditional concept as seen in the works 
of older authors such as Fielding, Dickens, Thackeray, or Galsworthy. 
Joyce’s reality is inner, cerebral, subjective, dominated by the ego of 
the author and the central character. Yet with all his subjectivity* 
Joyce manages to present, simultaneously, external events and the 
character’s reaction to them. Leopold Bloom, in Ulysses, in the fol- 
lowing passage is sitting in a carriage waiting to go to the cemetery 
for the burial of a friend: “All waited. Nothing was said. Stowing in 
the wreaths probably. I am sitting on something hard. Ah, that soap 
in my hip pocket. Better shift it out of that. Wait for an opportunity.” 
Conventional logic and chronology are unimportant in the stream of 
consciousness. Like expressionism in drama, the stream-of-conscious- 
ness technique is admirably suited to suggest the chaos of the world 
and the mind of modern man. 

Joyce’s reputation as a short-story writer is based upon the fifteen 
stories in Dubliners, his only volume of short stories, all written before 
he had developed the stream-of-consciousness technique. Objectivity* 
rather than subjectivity is the distinguishing mark of this volume, 
which is best described in Joyce’s own words: “My intention was to 
write a chapter in the moral lustory of my country and I chose Dublin 
for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis. 
I have tried to present it to the indifferent public under four of its 
aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories 
are arranged in that order. I have written it for the most part in a style 
of scrupulous meanness.” “Counterparts” is the ninth story in this 
volume. 

The student will find the following commentaries useful: Joseph 
Prescott, Joyce, James,” Encyclopaedia Britannica (1947); Herbert 

233 



JAMES JOYCE 


Gorman, James Joyce (1939; reissued 1948, with a brief postscript), 
the standard biography; Harry Levin, James Joyce: A Critical Intro- 
duction (1941), excellent for critical analysis; Joseph Campbell and 
H. M. Robinson, A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944); Stuart 
Gilbert, James Joyce'^s Ulysses: A Study (1931); Seon Givens (ed.)? 
James Joyce: Two Decades of Criticisjn (1948); Frederick J. Hoff- 
man, ‘Infroyce,” in his Freudianism and the Literary Mind (1945), 
pp. 114-148; Stanislaus Joyce (Joyce’s brother), Recollections of James 
Joyce (1950); Herbert J. Muller, Modern Fiction: A Study of Values 
(1937), pp. 288-316; Alan Parker, James Joyce: A Bibliography 
(1948); W. Y. Tindall, Ja?nes Joyce: His Way of Interpreting the 
Modern World (1950); and Edouard Dujardin, Le Monologue in- 
terieur (1931). 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Characterize Farrington. Why does he beat his son? Com- 
ment on the boy’s cry. 

2. How may the story reflect the moral history of Ireland or 
Dublin? Does it have meaning in relation to other parts of the world? 

3. What does the title mean or suggest to you? Of the four as- 
pects of life Joyce said he w^as treating in Dubliners, which is dealt 
with in “Counterparts”? Is more than one aspect represented? What 
qualities of the world of the naturalist* are reflected here? 

4* What of the style? Remember that Joyce said: “I have writ- 
ten . . . for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness.” Explain 
this statement. Is “Counterparts” an exception? Does the author’s ob- 
jective treatment of his material affect the style? How does the style 
compare with that of Dreiser and Farrell? 

5. How much time is covered in the story? How much does the 
reader learn of Farrington’s background, his life before the action of 
the story begins? Do you think Joyce may be attempting a transcript 
of life, with its details, its pettiness, as though he is trying to omit 
nothing? Any author, of course, selects his material, but his particular 
emphasis in selectivity often reveals his aim or purpose in writing. 
When an author presents “a slice of life,” what artistic effect is he 
trying to achieve? What does he lose by using this device? What does 
he gain? 

6. Note the amount of dialogue Joyce uses as compared with 
the amount used by Farrell or Dreiser. What does the difference sug- 
gest to you? Can you find suggestions of the stream of consciousness 
here? Explain. If this story were completely representative of Joyce’s 
short stories, how would you describe them as to subject matter, man- 
ner of presentation, and total effect on the reader? 

234 



THE NEW DRESS 


Mabel had her first serious 
suspicion that something was wrong as she took her cloak off and 
Mrs. Barnet, while handing her the mirror and touching the brushes 
and thus drawing her attention, perhaps rather markedly, to all the 
appliances for tidying and improving hair, complexion, clothes, which 
existed on the dressing table, confirmed the suspicion — ^that it was not 
right, not quite right, which growing stronger as she went upstairs 
and springing at her, with conviction as she greeted Clarissa Dallo- 
way, she went straight to the far end of the room, to a shaded corner 
where a looking-glass hung and looked. No! It was not right. And at 
once the misery which she always tried to hide, the profound dis- 
satisfaction — ^the sense she had had, ever since she was a child, of being 
inferior to other people — set upon her, relentlessly, remorselessly, 
with an intensity which she could not beat off, as she would when 
she woke at night at home, by reading Borrow or Scott; for oh these 
men, oh these women, ail were thinking — “What’s Mabel wearing? 
What a fright she looks! What a hideous new dress!” — ^their eyelids 
flickering as they came up and then their lids shutting rather tight. 
It was her own appalling inadequacy; her cowardice; her mean, water- 
sprinkled blood that depressed her. And at once the whole of the 
room where, for ever so many hours, she had planned with the little 
dressmaker how it was to go, seemed sordid, repulsive; and her own 
drawing-room so shabby, and herself, going out, puffed up with van- 
ity as she touched the letters on the hall table and said: “How dull!” 

From A Haunted House and Other Stories by Virginia Woolf, copyright, 
1944, by Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc. Permission for circulation in 
Canada from Hogarth Press, London. 


235 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


to show off — ali this now seemed unutterably silly, paltry, and pro- 
vincial* All this had been absolutely destroyed, shown up, exploded, 
the moment she came into Mrs, Dalloway’s drawing-room. 

What she had thought that evening when, sitting over the teacups, 
Mrs. Dalloway’s invitation came, was that, of course, she could not 
be fashionable. It was absurd to pretend it even — ^fashion meant cut, 
meant style, meant thirty guineas at least — ^but why not be original? 
Why not be herself, anyhow? And, getting up, she had taken that old 
fashion book of her mother’s, a Paris fashion book of the time of the 
Empire, and had thought how much prettier, more dignified, and 
more womanly they were then, and so set herself — oh, it was foolish 
— trying to be like them, pluming herself in fact, upon being modest 
and old-fashioned and very charming, giving herself up, no doubt 
about it, to an orgy of self-love, which deserved to be chastised, and 
so rigged herself out like this. 

But she dared not look in the glass. She could not face the whole 
horror — the pale yellow, idiotically old-fashioned silk dress with its 
long skirt and its high sleeves and its waist and all the things that 
looked so charming in the fashion book, but not on her, not among 
all these ordinary people. She felt like a dressmaker’s dummy standing 
there, for young people to stick pins into. 

“But, my dear, it’s perfectly charming!” Rose Shaw said, looking 
her up and down with that little satirical pucker of the lips which she 
expected — ^Rose herself being dressed in the height of the fashion, pre- 
cisely like everybody else, always. 

“We are all like flies trying to crawl over the edge of the saucer,” 
Mabel thought, and repeated the phrase as if she were crossing her- 
self, as if she were trying to find some spell to annul this pain, to 
make this agony endurable. Tags of Shakespeare, lines from books she 
had read ages ago, suddenly came to her w^hen she was in agony, and 
she repeated them over and over again. “Flies trying to crawl,” she 
repeated. If she could say that over often enough and make herself 
see the flies, she would become numb, chill, frozen, dumb. Now she 
could see flies crawling slowly out of a saucer of milk with their wings 
stuck together; and she strained and strained (standing in front of the 
looking-glass, listening to Rose Shaw) to make herself see Rose Shaw 
and ali the other people there as flies, trying to hoist themselves out of 

236 



THE NEW DRESS 


something, or into something, meagre, insignificant, toiling flies. But 
she could not see them like that, not other people. She saw herself 
like that — she was a fly, but the others were dragonflies, butterflies, 
beautiful insects, dancing, fluttering, skimming, while she alone 
dragged herself up out of the saucer. (Envy and spite, the most de- 
testable of the vices, were her chief faults.) 

“I feel like some dowdy, decrepit, horribly dingy old fly,” she said, 
making Robert Haydon stop just to hear her say that, just to reas- 
sure herself by furbishing up a poor weak-kneed phrase and so show- 
ing how detached she was, how witty, that she did not feel in the least 
out of anything. And, of course, Robert Haydon answered something 
quite polite, quite insincere, which she saw through instantly, and 
said to herself, directly he went (again from some book), “Lies, lies, 
lies!” For a party makes things either much more real, or much less 
real, she thought; she saw in a flash to the bottom of Robert Hay- 
don’s heart; she saw through everything. She saw the truth. This was 
true, this drawing-room, this self, and the other false. Miss Milan’s 
little work-room was really terribly hot, stuffy, sordid. It smelt of 
clothes and cabbage cooking; and yet, when Miss Milan put the glass 
in her hand, and she looked at herself with the dress on, finished, an 
extraordinary bliss shot through her heart. Suffused with light, she 
sprang into existence. Rid of cares and wrinkles, what she had 
dreamed of herself was there — a beautiful woman. Just for a second 
(she had not dared look longer. Miss Milan wanted to know about the 
length of the skirt), there looked at her, framed in the scrolloping 
mahogany, a grey-white, mysteriously smiling, charming girl, the 
core of herself, the soul of herself; and it was not vanity only, not 
only self-love that made her think it good, tender, and true. Miss 
Milan said that the skirt could not well be longer; if anything the 
skirt, said Miss Milan, puckering her forehead, considering with all 
her wits about her, must be shorter; and she felt, suddenly, honestly, 
full of love for Miss Milan, much, much fonder of Miss Milan than of 
anyone in the whole world, and could have cried for pity that she 
should be crawling on the floor with her mouth full of pins, and her 
face red and her eyes bulging — ^that one human being should be do- 
ing this for another, and she saw them all as human beings merely, 
and herself going off to her party, and Miss Milan pulling, the cover 

237 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


over the canary’s cage, or letting him pick a hemp-seed from between 
her lips, and the thought of it, of this side of human nature and its 
patience and its endurance and its being content with such miserable, 
scanty, sordid, little pleasures filled her eyes with tears. 

And now the whole thing had vanished. The dress, the room, the 
love, the pity, the scrolloping looking-glass, and the canary’s cage — 
all had vanished, and here she was in a corner of Mrs. Dalloway’s 
drawing-room, suffering tortures, woken wide awake to reality. 

But it was all so paltry, weak-blooded, and petty-minded to care so 
much at her age with two children, to be still so utterly dependent 
on people’s opinions and not have principles or convictions, not to be 
able to say as other people did, “There’s Shakespeare! There’s death! 
We’re all weevils in a captain’s biscuit” — or whatever it was that peo- 
ple did say. 

She faced herself straight in the glass; she pecked at her left shoul- 
der; she issued out into the room, as if spears were thrown at her 
yellow dress from all sides. But instead of looking fierce or tragic, 
as Rose Shaw would have done — ^Rose would have looked like 
Boadicea — she looked foolish and self-conscious, and simpered like a 
schoolgirl and slouched across the room, positively slinking, as if she 
were a beaten mongrel, and looked at a picture, an engraving. As if 
one went to a party to look at a picture! Everybody knew why she 
did it — it was from shame, from humiliation. 

“Now the fiy’s in the saucer,” she said to herself, “right in the mid- 
dle, and can’t get out, and the milk,” she thought, rigidly staring at 
the picture, “is sticking its wings together.” 

“It’s so old-fashioned,” she said to Charles Burt, making him stop 
(which by itself he hated) on his way to talk to someone else. 

She meant, or she tried to make herself think that she meant, that 
it was the picture and not her dress, that w^as old-fashioned. And one 
word of praise, one word of affection from Charles would have 
made all the difference to her at the moment. If he had only said, 
“Mabel, you’re looking charming tonight!” it would have changed 
her life. But then she ought to have been truthful and direct. Charles 
said nothing of the kind, of course. He was malice itself. He always 
saw through one, especially if one were feeling particularly mean, 
paltry, or feeble-minded. 

238 



THE NEW DRESS 


“Mabel’s got a new dress!” he said, and the poor fly was absolutely 
shoved into the middle of the saucer. Really, he would like her to 
drown, she believed. He had no heart, no fundamental kindness, only 
a veneer of friendliness. Miss Milan was much more real, much kinder. 
If only one could feel that and stick to it, always. “Why,” she asked 
herself — ^replying to Charles much too pertly, letting him see that she 
was out of temper, or “ruffled” as he called it (“Rather ruffled?” he 
said and went on to laugh at her with some woman over there) — 
“Why,” she asked herself, “can’t I feel one thing always, feel quite 
sure that Miss Milan is right, and Charles wrong and stick to it, feel 
sure about the canary and pity and love and not be whipped all round 
in a second by coming into a room full of people?” It was her odious, 
weak, vacillating character again, always giving at the critical mo- 
ment and not being seriously interested in conchology, etymology, 
botany, archeology, cutting up potatoes and watching them fructify 
like Mary Dennis, like Violet Searle. 

Then Mrs. Holman, seeing her standing there, bore down upon her. 
Of course a thing like a dress was beneath Mrs. Holman’s notice, with 
her family always tumbling downstairs or having the scarlet fever. 
Could Mabel tell her if Elmthorpe was ever let for August and Sep- 
tember? Oh, it was a conversation that bored her unutterably! — ^it 
made her furious to be treated like a house agent or a messenger boy, 
to be made use of. Not to have value, that was it, she thought, trying 
to grasp something hard, something real, while she tried to answer 
sensibly about the bathroom and the south aspect and the hot water 
to the top of the house; and all the time she could see little bits of her 
yellow dress in the round looking-glass which made them all the size 
of boot-buttons or tadpoles; and it was amazing to think how much 
humiliation and agony and self-loathing and effort and passionate ups 
and downs of feeling were contained in a thing the size of a three- 
penny bit. And what was still odder, this thing, this Mabel Waring, 
was separate, quite disconnected; and though Mrs, Holman (the black 
button) was leaning forward and telling her how her eldest boy had 
strained his heart running, she could see her, too, quite detached in 
the looking-glass, and it was impossible that the black dot, leaning 
forward, gesticulating, should make the yellow dot, sitting solitary, 
self-centred, feel what the black dot was feeling, yet they pretended. 

239 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


“So impossible to keep boys quiet” — ^that was the kind of thing one 
said. 

And Mrs. Holman, who could never get enough sympathy and 
snatched what little there was greedily, as if it were her right (but she 
deserved much more for there was her little girl who had come down 
this morning with a swollen knee-joint), took this miserable offering 
and looked at it suspiciously, grudgingly, as if it were a half-penny 
when it ought to have been a pound and put it away in her purse, 
must put up with it, mean and miserly though it was, times being 
hard, so very hard; and on she went, creaking, injured Mrs. Holman, 
about the girl with the swollen joints. Ah, it was tragic, this greed, 
this clamour of human beings, like a row of cormorants, barking and 
flapping their wings for sympathy — ^it was tragic, could one have felt 
it and not merely pretended to feel it! 

But in her yellow dress tonight she could not wring out one drop 
more; she wanted it all, all for herself. She knew (she kept on looking 
into the glass, dipping into that dreadfully showing-up blue pool) 
that she was condemned, despised, left like this in a backwater, be- 
cause of her being like this a feeble, vacillating creature; and it seemed 
to her that the yellow dress was a penance which she had deserved, 
and if she had been dressed like Rose Shaw, in lovely, clinging green 
with a ruffle of swansdown, she would have deserved that; and she 
thought that there was no escape for her — ^none whatever. But it was 
not her fault altogether, after all. It was being one of a family of ten; 
never having money enough, always skimping and paring; and her 
mother carrying great cans, and the linoleum worn on the stair edges, 
and one sordid little domestic tragedy after another — ^nothing cata- 
strophic, the sheep farm failing, but not utterly; her eldest brother 
marrying beneath him but not very much — ^there was no romance, 
nothing extreme about them ail. They petered out respectably in sea- 
side resorts; every watering-place had one of her aunts even now 
asleep in some lodging with the front windows not quite facing the 
sea. That was so like them — ^they had to squint at things always. And 
she had done the same — ^she was just like her aunts. For all her dreams 
of living in India, married to some hero like Sir Henry Lawrence, 
some empire builder (still the sight of a native in a turban filled her 
with romance), she had failed utterly. She had married Hubert, with 

240 



THE NEW DRESS 


his safe, permanent underling’s job in the Law Courts, and they man- 
aged tolerably in a smallish house, without proper maids, and hash 
when she was alone or just bread and butter, but now and then — ^Mrs. 
Holman was off, thinking her the most dried-up, unsympathetic twig 
she had ever met, absurdly dressed, too, and would tell everyone 
about Mabel’s fantastic appearance — ^now and then, thought Mabel 
Waring, left alone on the blue sofa, punching the cushion in order to 
look occupied, for she would not join Charles Burt and Rose Shaw, 
chattering like magpies and perhaps laughing at her by the fireplace — 
now and then, there did come to her delicious moments, reading the 
other night in bed, for instance, or down by the sea on the sand in 
the sun, at Easter — ^let her recall it — a great tuft of pale sand-grass 
standing all twisted like a shock of spears against the sky, which was 
blue like a smooth china egg, so firm, so hard, and then the melody 
of the waves — ‘‘Hush, hush,” they said, and the children’s shouts 
paddling — ^yes, it was a divine moment, and there she lay, she felt, 
in the hand of the Goddess who was the world; rather a hard-hearted, 
but very beautiful Goddess, a little lamb laid on the altar (one did 
think these silly things, and it didn’t matter so long as one never said 
them). And also with Hubert sometimes she had quite unexpectedly 
— carving the mutton for Sunday lunch, for no reason, opening a 
letter, coming into a room — divine moments, when she said to herself 
(for she would never say this to anybody else), “This is it. This has 
happened. This is it!” And the other way about it was equally sur- 
prising — ^that is, when everything was arranged — ^music, weather, hol- 
idays, every reason for happiness was there — ^then nothing happened 
at all. One wasn’t happy. It was flat, just flat, that was all. 

Her wretched self again, no doubt! She had always been a fretful, 
weak, unsatisfactory mother, a wobbly wife, lolling about in a kind of 
twilight existence with nothing very clear or very bold, or more one 
thing than another, like all her brothers and sisters, except perhaps 
Herbert — ^they were all the same poor water-veined creatures who 
did nothing. Then in the midst of this creeping, crawling life, sud- 
denly she was on the crest of a wave. That wretched fly — ^where had 
she read the story that kept coming into her mind about the fly and 
the saucer? — struggled out. Yes, she had those moments. But now 
that she was forty, they might come more and more seldom. By 


241 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


degrees she would cease to struggle any more. But that was deplor- 
able! That was not to be endured! That made her feel ashamed of 
herself! 

She would go to the London Library tomorrow. She would find 
some wonderful, helpful, astonishing book, quite by chance, a book 
by a clergyman, by an American no one had ever heard of; or she 
would walk down the Strand and drop, accidentally, into a hall where 
a miner was telling about the life in the pit, and suddenly she would 
become a new person. She would be absolutely transformed. She 
would wear a uniform; she would be called Sister Somebody; she 
would never give a thought to clothes again. And forever after 
she would be perfectly clear about Charles Burt and Miss Milan and 
this room and that room; and it would be always, day after day, as if 
she were lying in the sun or carving the mutton. It would be it! 

So she got up from the blue sofa, and the yellow button in the look- 
ing-glass got up too, and she waved her hand to Charles and Rose to 
show them she did not depend on them one scrap, and the yellow but- 
ton moved out of the looking-glass, and all the spears were gathered 
into her breast as she walked towards Mrs. Dalloway and said, “Good 
night.’' 

“But it’s too early to go,” said Mrs. Dalloway, who was always so 
charming. 

“I’m afraid I must,” said Mabel Waring. “But,” she added in her 
weak, wobbly voice which only sounded ridiculous when she tried 
to strengthen it, “I have enjoyed myself enormously.” 

“I have enjoyed myself,” she said to Mr. Dalloway, whom she met 
on the stairs. 

“Lies, lies, lies!” she said to herself, going downstairs, and “Right 
in the saucer!” she said to herself as she thanked Mrs. Barnet for help- 
ing her and wrapped herself, round and round and round, in the Chi- 
nese cloak she had worn these twenty years.' 

VIRGINIA WOOLF, the most distinguished British woman ^writer 
of the first half of the twentieth century, was born in London in 1882. 
She was the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, a historian and philoso- 
pher. The leading figures of late nineteenth-century English literary 
life were frequent visitors at the Stephen home, and Virginia grew up 
in an atmosphere in which greatness was commonplace, fevately edu- 

242 



THE HEW DRESS 


cated, she learned Greek from Walter Pater’s sister; in her father’s 
huge library she engaged in wide, independent reading. In 1912 she 
married Leonard S. Woolf, an intellectual and a social reformer. Their 
home in Bloomsbury became the gathering place of a group of artists 
and scholars — ^E. M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, T. S. Eliot, Lyt- 
ton Strachey, and others — ^who, while subscribing to no single artistic 
or philosophic creed, were united in a search for fresh approaches to 
truth. In 1917 the Woolfs acquired an old hand press and, largely for 
their own amusement, founded a publishing company, the Hogarth 
Press, At first they did all the work, even the printing. They gave their 
press practical function, however, by selecting for publication work of 
high quality by unknown or obscure authors. To their amazement the 
venture developed into a successful publishing house. 

It was her own creative efforts, however, which principally en- 
grossed Mrs. Woolf’s attention. Her first two novels, The Voyage 
Out (1915) and Night and Day (1919), though thoughtful and sensi- 
tive, are fairly conventional in form and content. Mrs. Woolf was de- 
veloping, however, a vision of life which could not be communicated 
in the traditional forms which the novel had evolved. She became con- 
vinced that writers of conventional fiction falsified life. “Look 
within,” she wrote in 1919, 

and life, it seems, is very far from being ‘like this.’ Examine for 
a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind re- 
ceives a myriad impressions — ^trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or 
engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, 
an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as 
they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the 
accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance 
came not here but there; so that if a writer were a free man and 
not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, 
if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon 
convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no 
love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style. . . . Life is 
not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; but a lumi- 
nous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the 
beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the 
novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircum- 
scribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, 
with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? 

The events of which fiction is usually fashioned, she declared, lead 
readers to false conclusions about life because these happenings are not 
sufficiently like the events of the day-to-day lives of men and women, 

243 



VIRGINIA V/OOLF 


and it is these day-to-day experiences which are the reality of human 
existence. It is very difficult to determine which of the impressions that 
the mind receives will prove important; perhaps an object here, a 
shadow there, or a sudden noise may assume a symbolic value of which 
even the individual who perceives them is not wholly aware. Values 
themselves constantly alter with changing circumstances; and, to 
multiply the confusion, human interpretations of the values of events 
and perceptions change too. But, be the task ever so difficult, it is cer- 
tainly somewhere in the constant shower of chaotic sensation that the 
significant events of life are to be found. The business of the artist is 
to determine what things are important, to organize them, and to in- 
terpret them while at the same time creating the illusion of the reality 
of the events and characters with which he deals. 

By these criteria the familiar fiction-writer’s boy-meets-girl formula 
appears astonishingly inadequate, because it mechanically imposes 
certain standards of value instead of permitting the artist to search for 
the important, and because it compels an interest in certain stereo- 
typed situations highly unlike the usual events of day-to-day. But also 
in Mrs- Woolf’s opinion it had happened that, at least in the late nine- 
teenth and early twentieth centuries, story-tellers had lost the ability 
to look at character itself at all, and instead could see only the material 
world. They described rooms, railway-coaches, factories. They de- 
scribed clothes and furniture. They were obsessed with man’s posses- 
sions and creations, and could only leave their readers to infer the na- 
ture of a character from descriptions of the character’s environment. 
But character belongs to the world of spirit. It is not material at all; 
and if it is to be got at, it can fie only by dealing with the welter of 
experience as it impresses itself upon the mind. 

It can be seen that Mrs. Woolf was determined to write truthfully, 
to find reality, to discover for herself what experiences had value, and 
to use the discovery to create characters. Naturally the novels and 
stories which she wrote after her early experiments wxre highly un- 
orthodox. Jacobis Roo7n (1922) explores the youth and young man- 
hood of Jacob Flanders, not by the use of connected narrative but by 
the illumination of disconnected scenes. Mrs, Dalloway (1925) rep- 
resents Mrs. Woolf’s most determined attempt to get at character 
through the multiplicity of experience. All the action takes place in 
a single day. The reader is alternately carried through various mo- 
ments of remembered time in the stream of consciousness (see the dis- 
cussion of James Joyce) of one of the characters, and then through 
various aspects of a scene in one particular moment of time, the pres- 
ent. To the Lighthouse (1927) is probably its author^s most popular 
novel Though plot is lacking, the technique employed is generally 
more conventional than that in any of the other novels WTitten in the 

244 



THE NEW DRESS 


middle period of Mrs. Woolf’s life. The problem again is to explore 
character; the method, that of permitting the principal characters to 
speak and act realistically, of showing them as reflected in the minds 
of others on the spot, and of exhibiting them in the memories of 
others. The whole is a singularly rich work. Orlando (1928) is a bio- 
graphical fantasy, in which the idea that each individual is a kind of 
summary of his ancestors is exploited by treating the experiences of the 
generations of a family since the sixteenth century as if they were the 
experiences of a single person. The Waves (1931) is Mrs. Woolf’s mas- 
terpiece. Here the technique is altered again. The reader is taken into 
the minds of six characters, but not exactly by being permitted to 
share their streams of consciousness. Rather, he shares the thoughts 
they would think if they had god-like powers of articulation. The re- 
sult is a series of highly poetic though stylized monologues, very com- 
plicated yet successful communications to the reader. The Years 
(1937), reminiscent of JacoFs Room, is much less interesting, though 
not a failure. By dealing with a series of situations, arranged chrono- 
logically but not temporally contiguous, she traces the fortunes of a 
group of characters from 1880 to 1937. Between the Acts (1941) is the 
slightest of the novels. An annual pageant is being held at an English 
country house. This year the pageant is a history of England, pre- 
sented symbolically. The interest of the reader is divided between the 
history itself and the characters before whom it is presented, who, 
before and after the pageant, and between the acts, live fragments of 
their own lives. 

Mrs. Woolf wrote no other novels. During her lifetime she published 
only one major volume of short stories, Monday or Tuesday (1921). 
x\fter her death her husband published a second, A Haunted House 
(1944), containing six of the eight stories which had appeared in Mon-- 
day or Tuesday and twelve which had not previously appeared in 
book form. Like the novels, the stories are highly experimental; their 
form and content were dictated by the same desires and convictions 
as had produced the novels. 

Mrs. Woolf was also a distinguished critic and essayist. Two of her 
five volumes of criticism, The Commo7i Reader (1925) and The Sec- 
ond Common Reader (1932), appeared during her life; the other 
three, The Death of a Moth (1942), The Moment (1948), and The 
Captain^ Death Bed (1950), are essays which her husband collected 
and published after her death. 

The greatest interest reflected in her work, after that in literature 
itself, is in feminism. Women, she insisted, are kept economically, pro- 
fessionally, and educationally inferior to men by a kind of masculine 
conspiracy. She discussed the question in A Room of One’s Own 
(1929) and Three Guineas (1938). She wrote two other books, Flush 

245 



VIRGINIA WOOLF 


(1933), a somewhat precious attempt to discuss the life of the nine- 
teenth-century poetess Elizabeth Barrett by writing about her dog 
Flush, and Roger Fry (1940), a mediocre biography of an art critic. 

Mrs. Woolf committed suicide by drowning herself in the river Ouse 
on March 28, 1941. She left behind a note which was widely misinter- 
preted to mean that she found it impossible to endure the war. Her 
husband was compelled to make public the fact that she had had severe 
nervous breakdowns years before and that it was the symptoms of a 
return of the terrible malady, not the German bombers, which de- 
stroyed her desire to live. 

^‘The New Dress” is taken from A Haunted House. 

The following are some of the good studies of Mrs. Woolf’s work: 
Joan Bennett, Virginia Woolf: Her Art as a Novelist (1945); Ber- 
nard Blackstone, Virginia Woolfs A Commentary (1949); David 
Daiches, Virginia Woolf (1942); E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf 
(1942); Duncan Grant, “Virginia Woolf,” Horizon, hi (1941), 402ff.; 
William Troy, “Virginia Woolf: The Novel of Sensibility,” Sym- 
posium, hi (January and April, 1932), 53-63, 153-166 (reprinted in 
Morton D. Zabel, Literary Opinion in America, 1937, pp. 340-358); 
and Floris Delattre, Le Roman psychologique de Virginia Woolf 
(1932). 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Here is a story in which Mrs. Woolf tries to illuminate a char- 
acter by presenting the relevant events of a single evening. Does the 
story have a plot * like that of the traditional short story? Would it be 
a serious exaggeration to say that the story has no plot? Try to decide 
whether Mabel’s character could have been explained — ^perhaps ex- 
plained better — ^by the use of events more conventional to story- 
tellers. 

2. Are the events of the story organized in some fashion? List as 
well as you can the principal things which happen to Mabel and the 
principal things which she remembers, and see whether you can detect 
some plan of organization. 

3. Do Mabel’s experiences seem more real to you than those of 
characters in more conventional stories? Does Mrs. Woolf succeed in 
dealing with personality itself rather than with the physical qualities 
of the scene? 

4. Do you understand Mabel? Do you believe that at the begin- 
ning of the party Mrs. Barnet really means to disparage Mabel’s ap- 
pearance — or that the people whom Mabel meets afterward so intend? 
Do you gather that the dress is actually an attractive one? What do 
you make of the occasional moments of happiness which she says she 

246 



THE NEW DRESS 


experiences? To what does she attribute the fact that she has become 
what she is? Characterize Mabel. 

5. Mrs. Woolf’s sentences are unusually complex. What do you 
think she hopes to accomplish by this complexity? Do the events of 
life — even trifling events — ^perhaps seem to her to have so many facets 
that she must interrupt her sentences with many qualifications, expla- 
nations, and figures of speech in order to represent reality satisfactorily? 
Are the metaphors and similes which she uses genuinely enlightening? 
Mrs. Woolf employs many present participles. Can you see that these 
arrest the passage of time in the story while Mrs. Woolf analyzes what 
is happening at a given moment? Does this halting of time at particular 
moments make it possible to portray the quality of the events at that 
moment more accurately than they could otherwise be portrayed? 


247 



THE C LAXTO N S 




^^////// 



In their little house on the 
common, how beautifully the Claxtons lived, how spiritually! Even 
the cat was a vegetarian — at any rate officially — even the cat. Which 
made little Sylvia^s behaviour really quite inexcusable. For after all lit- 
tle Sylvia was human and six years old, whereas Pussy was only four 
and an animal. If Pussy could be content with greens and potatoes 
and milk and an occasional lump of nut butter, as a treat — ^Pussy, who 
had a tiger in her blood — surely Sylvia might be expected to refrain 
from surreptitious bacon-eating. Particularly in somebody else’s house. 

What made the incident so specially painful to the Claxtons was that 
it had occurred under Judith’s roof. It was the first time they had 
stayed with Judith since their marriage. Martha Claxton was rather 
afraid of her sister, afraid of her sharp tongue and her laughter and 
her scarifying irreverence. And on her own husband’s account she 
was a little jealous of Judith’s husband. Jack Bamborough’s books 
were not only esteemed; they also brought in money. Whereas poor 
Herbert. . , . ^^Herbert’s art is too inward^'^ his wife used to explain, 
“too spiritual for most people to understand.” She resented Jack Bam- 
borough’s success; it was too complete. She wouldn’t have minded so 
much if he had made pots of money in the teeth of critical contempt; 
or if the critics had approved and he had made nothing. But to earn 
praise and a thousand a year — ^that was too much. A man had no right 
to make the best of both worlds like that, when Herbert never sold 
anything and was utterly ignored. In spite of all which she had at 
last accepted Judith’s often repeated invitation. After all, one ought 

From Brief Candles by Aldous Huxley. Copyright, 1929, by Aldous 
Huxley. Reprinted by permission of the publishers, "Harper and Brothers. 

248 



THE CLAXTONS 


to love one’s sister and one’s sister’s husband. Also all the chimneys in 
the house on the common needed sweeping, and the roof would 
have to be repaired where the rain was coming in. Judith’s invitation 
arrived most conveniently. Martha accepted it. And then Sylvia went 
and did that really inexcusable thing. Coming down to breakfast be- 
fore the others she stole a rasher from the dish of bacon with which 
her aunt and uncle unregenerately began the day. Her mother’s arrival 
prevented her from eating it on the spot; she had to hide it. Weeks 
later when Judith was looking for something in the inlaid Italian cab- 
inet, a little pool of dried grease in one of the drawers bore eloquent 
witness to the crime. The day passed; but Sylvia found no oppor- 
tunity to consummate the outrage she had begun. It was only in the 
evening, while her little brother Paul was being given his bath, that 
she was able to retrieve the now stiff and clammy-cold rasher. With 
guilty speed she hurried upstairs with it and hid it under her pillow.' 
When the lights were turned out she ate it. In the morning, the grease 
stains and a piece of gnawed rind betrayed her. Judith went into fits 
of inextinguishable laughter. 

“It’s like the Garden of Eden,” she gasped between the explosions 
of her mirth. “The meat of the Pig of the Knowledge of Good and 
Evil. But if you will surround bacon with categorical imperatives and 
mystery, what can you expect, my dear Martha?” 

Martha went on smiling her habitual smile of sweet forgiving be- 
nevolence. But inside she felt extremely angry; the child had made a 
fool of them all in front of Judith and Jack. She would have liked to 
give her a good smacking. Instead of which — ^for one must never be 
rough with a child, one must never let it see that one is annoyed — she 
reasoned with Sylvia, she explained, she appealed, more in sorrow than 
in anger, to her better feelings. 

“Your daddy and I don’t think it’s right to make animals suffer 
when we can eat vegetables which don’t suffer anything.” 

“How do you know they don’t?” asked Sylvia, shooting out the 
question malignantly. Her face was ugly with sullen ill-temper. 

“We don’t think it right, darling,” Mrs. Claxton went on, ignoring 
the interruption, “And I’m sure you wouldn’t either, if you realized. 
Think, my pet; to make that bacon, a poor little pig had to be killed. 


249 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


To be killedy Sylvia. Think of that. A poor innocent little pig that 
hadn’t done anybody any harm.” 

“But I hate pigs,” cried Sylvia. Her sullenness flared up into sudden 
ferocity; her eyes that had been fixed and glassy with a dull resent- 
ment, darkly flashed. ‘1 hate them, hate them, hate them.” 

‘‘Quite right,” said Aunt Judith, who had come in most inoppor- 
tunely in the middle of the lecture. “Quite right. Pigs are disgusting. 
That’s why people called them pigs.” 

Martha was glad to get back to the little house on the common and 
their beautiful life, happy to escape from Judith’s irreverent laughter 
and the standing reproach of Jack’s success. On the common she 
ruled, she was the mistress of the family destinies. To the friends who 
came to visit them there she was fond of saying, with that smile of 
hers, “I feel that, in our way and on a tiny scale, we’ve built Jerusalem 
in England’s green and pleasant land.” 

It was Martha’s great-grandfather who started the brewery busi- 
ness. Postgate’s Entire was a household word in Cheshire and Derby- 
shire. Martha’s share of the family fortune was about seven hundred 
a year. The Claxtons’ spirituality and disinterestedness were the flow- 
ers of an economic plant whose roots were bathed in beer. But for 
the thirst of British workmen, Herbert would have had to spend his 
time and energies profitably doing instead of beautifully being. Beer 
and the fact that he had married Martha permitted him to cultivate 
the arts and the religions, to distinguish himself in a gross world as 
an apostle of idealism. 

“It’s what’s called the division of labour,” Judith would laughingly 
say. “Other people drink. Martha and I think. Or at any rate we 
think we think,” 

Herbert was one of those men who are never without a knapsack 
on their backs. Even in Bond Street, on the rare occasions when he 
went to London, Herbert looked as though he were just about to 
ascend Mont Blanc, The rucksack is a badge of spirituality. For 
the modern high-thinking, pure-hearted Teuton or Anglo-Saxon the 
scandal of the rucksack is what the scandal of the cross was to the 
Franciscans. When Herbert passed, long-legged and knickerbockered, 
his fair beard like a windy explosion round his face, his rucksack over- 
flowing with the leeks and cabbages required in such profusion to sup- 

250 



THE ClAXTONS 


port a purely graminivorous family, the street-boys yelled, the flap- 
pers whooped with laughter. Herbert ignored them, or else smiled 
through his beard forgivingly and with a rather studied humourous- 
ness. We all have our little rucksack to bear. Herbert bore his not 
merely with resignation, but boldly, provocatively, flauntingly in the 
faces of men; and along with the rucksack the other symbols of dif- 
ference, of separation from ordinary, gross humanity — ^the concealing 
beard, the knickerbockers, the Byronic shirt. He was proud of his 
difference. 

“Oh, I know you think us ridiculous,” he would say to his friends 
of the crass materialistic world, “I know you laugh at us for a set of 
cranks.” 

“But we don’t, we don’t,” the friends would answer, politely lying. 

“And yet, if it hadn’t been for the cranks,” Herbert pursued, 
“where would you be now, what would you be doing? You’d be beat- 
ing children, and torturing animals and hanging people for stealing a 
shilling, and doing ail the other horrible things they did in the good 
old days.” 

He was proud, proud; he knew himself superior. So did Martha. In 
spite of her beautiful Christian smile, she too was certain of her su- 
periority. That smile of hers — ^it was the hall-mark of her spirituality. 
A more benevolent version of Mona Lisa’s smile, it kept her rather 
thin, bloodless lips almost chronically curved into a crescent of sweet 
and forgiving charitableness, it surcharged the natural sullenness of 
her face with a kind of irrelevant sweetness. It was the product of 
long years of wilful self-denial, of stubborn aspirations towards the 
highest, of conscious and determined love for humanity and her en- 
emies. (And for Martha the terms were really identical; humanity, 
though she didn’t of course admit it, njisas her enemy, she felt it hostile 
and therefore loved it, consciously and conscientiously; loved it be- 
cause she really hated it.) 

In the end habit had fixed the smile undetachably to her face. It 
remained there permanently shining, like the headlamps of a motor 
car inadvertently turned on and left to burn, unnecessarily, in the 
daylight. Even when she was put out or downright angry, even when 
she was stubbornly, mulishly fighting to have her own will, the smile 
persisted. Framed between its pre-Raphaelitic loops of mouse-col- 

251 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


cured hair the heavy, sullen-featured, rather unwholesomely pallid 
face continued to shine incongruously with forgiving love for the 
whole of hateful, hostile humanity; only in the grey eyes was there 
any trace of the emotions which Martha so carefully repressed. 

It was her great-grandfather and her grandfather who had made 
the money. Her father was already by birth and upbringing the 
landed gentleman. Brewing was only the dim but profitable back- 
ground to more distinguished activities as a sportsman, an agricul- 
turist, a breeder of horses and rhododendrons, a member of Parlia- 
ment and the best London clubs. The fourth generation was obviously 
ripe for Art and Higher Thought. And duly, punctually, the adoles- 
cent Martha discovered William Morris and Mrs. Besant, discovered 
Tolstoy and Rodin and Folk Dancing and Lao-tzse. Stubbornly, 
with all the force of her heavy will, she addressed herself to the con- 
quest of spirituality, to the siege and capture of the Highest. And no 
less punctually than her sister, the adolescent Judith discovered 
French literature and was lightly enthusiastic (for it was in her na- 
ture to be light and gay) about Manet and Daumier, even, in due 
course, about Matisse and Cezanne. In the long run brewing almost 
infallibly leads to impressionism or theosophy or communism. But 
there are other roads to the spiritual heights; it was by one of these 
other roads that Herbert had travelled. There were no brewers 
among Herbert’s ancestors. He came from a lower, at any rate a 
poorer, stratum of society. His father kept a drapery shop at Nant- 
wich. Mr. Claxton was a thin, feeble man with a taste for argumenta- 
tion and pickled onions. Indigestion had spoilt his temper and the 
chronic consciousness of inferiority had made him a revolutionary 
and a domestic bully. In the intervals of work he read the literature 
of socialism and unbelief and nagged at his wife, who took refuge in 
non-conformist piety. Herbert was a clever boy with a knack for 
passing examinations. He did well at school. They were very proud 
of him at home, for he was an only child. 

“You mark my words,” his father would say, prophetically glow- 
ing in that quarter of an hour of beatitude which intervened be- 
tween the eating of his dinner and the beginning of his dyspepsia, 
“that boy’ll do something remarkable.” 

A few minutes later, with the first rumblings and convulsions of in- 

252 



the claxtons 


digestion, he would be shouting at him in fury, cuiEng him, sending 
him out of the room. 

Being no good at games Herbert revenged himself on his more 
athletic rivals by reading. Those afternoons in the public library in- 
stead of on the football field, or at home with one of his father’s 
revolutionary volumes, were the beginning of his difference and supe- 
riority. It was, when Martha first knew him, a political difference, 
an anti-Christian superiority. Her superiority was mainly artistic and 
spiritual. Martha’s was the stronger character; in a little while Her- 
bert’s interest in socialism was entirely secondary to his interest in art, 
his anti-clericalism was tinctured by Oriental religiosity. It was only 
to be expected. 

What was not to be expected was that they should have married at 
all, that they should ever even have met. It was not easy for the chil- 
dren of land-owning brewers and shop-owning drapers to meet and 
marry. 

Morris-dancing accomplished the miracle. They came together in a 
certain garden in the suburbs of Nantwich where Mr. Winslow, the 
Extension Lecturer, presided over the rather solemn stampings and 
prancings of ail that was earnestly best among the youth of eastern 
Cheshire. To that suburban garden Martha drove in from the coun- 
try, Herbert cycled out from the High Street. They met; love did 
the rest. 

Martha was at that time twenty-four and, in her heavy, pallid style, 
not unhandsome. Herbert was a year older, and tall, a disproportion- 
ately narrow young man, with a face strong-featured and aquiline, 
yet singularly mild (“a sheep in eagle’s clothing” was how Judith had 
once described him) and very fair hair. Beard at that time he had 
none. Economic necessity still prevented him from advertising the 
fact of his difference and superiority. In the auctioneer’s office, where 
Herbert worked as a clerk, a beard would have been as utterly inad- 
missible as knickerbockers, an open shirt, and that outward and visible 
symbol of inward grace, the rucksack. For Herbert these things only 
became possible when marriage and Martha’s seven hundred yearly 
pounds had lifted him clear of the ineluctable workings of economic 
law. In those Nantwich days the most he could permit himself was 
a red tie and some private opinions. 


253 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


It was Martha who did most of the loving. Dumbly, with a passion 
that was almost grim in its stubborn intensity, she adored him — ^his 
frail body, his long-fingered, delicate hands, the aquiline face with its, 
for other eyes, rather spurious air of distinction and intelligence, all 
of him, all. “He has read William Morris and Tolstoy,” she wrote in 
her diary; “he’s one of the very few people I’ve met who feel respon- 
sible about things. Everyone else is so terribly frivolous and self-cen- 
tred and indifferent. Like Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. He 
isn’t like that. He’s conscious, he’s aware, he accepts the burden. 
That’s why I like him.” That was why, at any rate, she thought she 
liked him. But her passion was reaUy for the physical Herbert Clax- 
ton. Heavily, like a dark cloud charged with thunder, she hung over 
him with a kind of menace, ready to break out on him with the 
lightnings of passions and domineering will. Herbert was charged 
with some of the electricity of passion which he had called out of 
her. Because she loved, he loved her in return. His vanity, too, was 
flattered; it was only theoretically that he despised class-distinctions 
and wealth. 

The land-owning brewers were horrified when they heard from 
Martha that she was proposing to marry the son of a shopkeeper. 
Their objections only intensified Martha’s stubborn determination 
to have her own way. Even if she hadn’t loved him, she would have 
married him on principle, just because his father was a draper and be- 
cause all this class business was an irrelevant nonsense. Besides, Her- 
bert had talents. What sort of talents it was rather hard to specify. 
But whatever the talents might be, they were being smothered in the 
auctioneer’s office. Her seven hundred a year would give them scope. 
It was practically a duty to marry him. 

“A man’s a man for all that,” she said to her father, quoting, in the 
hope of persuading him, from his favourite poet; she herself found 
Burns too gross and unspirituaL 

“And a sheep’s a sheep,” retorted Mr. Postgate, “and a woodlouse 
is a woodlouse — ^for all that and all that.” 

Martha flushed darkly and turned away without saying anything 
more. Three weeks later she and the almost passive Herbert were 
married. 


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THE CLAXTONS 


Well, now Sylvia was six years old and a handfni, and little Paul, 
who was whiny and had adenoids, was just on five, and Herbert, 
under his wife’s influence, had discovered unexpectedly enough that 
his talents were really artistic and was by this time a painter with an 
established reputation for lifeless ineptitude. With every reaffirmation 
of his lack of success he flaunted more defiantly than ever the scandal 
of the rucksack, the scandals of the knickerbockers and beard. Martha, 
meanwhile, talked about the inwardness of Herbert’s art. They were 
able to persuade themselves that it was their superiority which pre- 
vented them from getting the recognition they deserved. Herbert’s 
lack of success was even a proof (though not perhaps the most satis- 
factory kind of proof) of that superiority. 

“But Herbert’s time will come,” Martha would affirm prophetically. 
“It’s bound to come.” 

Meanwhile the little house on the Surrey common was overflowing 
with unsold pictures. Allegorical they were, painted very flatly in a 
style that was Early Indian tempered, wherever the Oriental origi- 
nals ran too luxuriantly to breasts and wasp-waists and moon-like 
haunches, by the dreary respectability of Puvis de Chavannes. 

“And let me beg you, Herbert” — those had been Judith’s parting 
words of advice as they stood on the platform waiting for the train to 
take them back again to their house on the common — “let me implore 
you: try to be a little more indecent in your paintings. Not so shock- 
ingly pure. You don’t know how happy you’d make me if you could 
really be obscene for once. Really obscene.” 

It was a comfort, thought Martha, to be getting away from that 
sort of thing. Judith was reaUy too . . . Her lips smiled, her hand 
waved good-bye. 

“Isn’t it lovely to come back to our own dear little house!” she 
cried, as the station taxi drove them bumpily over the track that led 
across the common to the garden gate. “Isn’t it lovely?” 

“Lovely!” said Herbert dutifully echoing her rather forced rap- 
ture. 

“Lovely!” repeated little Paul, rather thickly through his adenoids. 
He was a sweet child, when he wasn’t whining, and always did and 
said what was expected of him. 


255 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


Through the window of the cab Sylvia looked critically at the long 
low house among the trees. “I think Aunt Judith’s house is nicer,” 
she concluded with decision. 

Martha turned upon her the sweet illumination of her smile. “Aunt 
Judith’s house is bigger,” she said, “and much grander. But this is 
Home, my sweet. Our very own Home.” 

“All the same,” persisted Sylvia, “I like Aunt Judith’s house better.” 

Martha smiled at her forgivingly and shook her head. “You’ll un- 
derstand what I mean when you’re older,” she said. A strange child, 
she was thinking, a difficult child. Not like Paul, who was so easy. 
Too easy. Paul fell in with suggestions, did what he was told, took 
his colour from the spiritual environment. Not Sylvia. She had her 
own will. Paul was like his father. In the girl Martha saw something 
of her own stubbornness and passion and determination. If the will 
could be well directed. . . . But the trouble was that it was so often 
hostile, resistant, contrary. Martha thought of that deplorable occa- 
sion, only a few months before, when Sylvia, in a fit of rage at not 
being allowed to do something she wanted to do, had spat in her 
father’s face. Herbert and Martha had agreed that she ought to be 
punished. But how? Not smacked, of course; smacking was out of the 
question. The important thing was to make the child realize the hei- 
nousness of what she had done. In the end they decided that the 
best thing would be for Herbert to talk to her very seriously (but 
very gently, of course), and then leave her to choose her own pun- 
ishment. Let her conscience decide. It seemed an excellent idea, 

“I want to tell you a story, Sylvia,” said Herbert that evenmg, tak- 
ing the child on to his knees. “About a little girl, who had a daddy 
who loved her so much, so much.” Sylvia looked at him suspiciously, 
but said nothing. “And one day that little girl, who was sometimes 
rather a thoughtless little girl, though I don’t believe she was really 
naughty, was doing something that it wasn’t right or good for her 
to do. And her daddy told her not to. And what do you think that 
little girl did? She spat in her daddy’s face. And her daddy was very 
very sad. Because what his little girl did was wrong, wasn’t it?” Sylvia 
nodded a brief defiant assent, “And when one has done something 
wrong, one must be punished, mustn’t one?” The child nodded again, 
Herbert was pleased; his words had had their effect; her conscience 

256 



THE CLAXTONS 


was being touched. Over the child’s head he exchanged a glance with 
Martha. “If you had been that daddy,” he went on, “and the little 
girl you loved so much had spat in your face, what would you have 
done, Sylvia?” 

“Spat back,” Sylvia answered fiercely and without hesitation. 

At the recollection of the scene Martha sighed. Sylvia was difficult, 
Sylvia was decidedly a problem. The cab drew up at the gate; the 
Claxtons unpacked themselves and their luggage. Inadequately tipped, 
the driver made his usual scene. Bearing his rucksack, Herbert turned 
away with a dignified patience. He was used to tliis sort of thing; it 
was a chronic martyrdom. The unpleasant duty of paying was always 
his. Martha only provided the cash. With what extreme and yearly 
growing reluctance! He was always between the devil of the under- 
tipped and the deep sea of Martha’s avarice. 

“Four miles’ drive and a tuppenny tip!” shouted the cab driver at 
Herbert’s receding and riicksacked back. 

Martha grudged him even the twopence. But convention demanded 
that something should be given. Conventions are stupid things; but 
even the Children of the Spirit must make some compromise with 
the World. In this case Martha was ready to compromise with the 
World to the extent of twopence. But no more. Herbert knew that 
she would have been very angry if he had given more. Not openly, 
of course; not explicitly. She never visibly lost her temper or her 
smile. But her forgiving disapproval would have weighed heavily on 
him for days. And for days she would have found excuses for econ- 
omizing in order to make up for the wanton extravagance of a six- 
penny instead of a twopenny tip. Her economies were mostly on the 
food, and their justification was always spiritual. Eating was gross; 
high living was incompatible with high thinking; it was dreadful to 
think of the poor going hungry while you yourself were living in 
luxurious gluttony. There would be a cutting down of butter and 
Brazil nuts, of the more palatable vegetables and the choicer fruits. 
Meals would come to consist more and more exclusively of porridge, 
potatoes, cabbages, bread. Only when the original extravagance had 
been made up several hundred times would Martha begin to relax her 
asceticism. Herbert never ventured to complain. After one of these 
bouts of plain living he would for a long time be very careful to avoid 


257 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


Other extravagances, even when, as in this case, his economies brought 
him into painful and humiliating conflict with those on whom they 
were practised. 

“Next time,” the taxi driver was shouting, “Fll charge extra for the 
whiskers.” 

Herbert passed over the threshold and closed the door behind him. 
Safe! He took off his rucksack and deposited it carefully on a chair. 
Gross, vulgar brute! But anyhow he had taken himself off with the 
twopence, Martha would have no cause to complain or cut down the 
supply of peas and beans. In a mild and spiritual way Herbert was 
very fond of his food. So was Martha — darkly and violently fond 
of it. That was why she had become a vegetarian, why her economies 
were always at the expense of the stomach — precisely because she 
liked food so much. She suffered when she deprived herself of some 
delicious morsel. But there was a sense in which she loved her suffer- 
ing more than the morsel Denying herself, she felt her whole being 
irradiated by a glow of power; suffering, she was strengthened, her 
will was wound up, her energy enhanced. The dammed-up instincts 
rose and rose behind the wall of voluntary mortification, deep and 
heavy with potentialities of force. In the struggle between the instincts 
Martha’s love of power was generally strong enough to overcome 
her greed; among the hierarchy of pleasures, the joy of exerting the 
personal conscious will was more intense than the joy of eating even 
Turkish delight or strawberries and cream. Not always, however; 
for there were occasions when, overcome by a sudden irresistible de- 
sire, Martha would buy and, in a single day, secretly consume a whole 
pound of chocolate creams, throwing herself upon the sweets with 
the same heavy violence as had characterized her first passion for Her- 
bert. With the passage of time and the waning, after the birth of her 
two children, of her physical passion for her husband, Martha’s orgies 
among the chocolates became more frequent. It was as though her 
vital energies were being forced, by the closing of the sexual channel, 
to find explosive outlet in gluttony. After one of these orgies Martha 
always tended to become more than ordinarily strict in her ascetic 
spirituality. 

Three weeks after the Claxtons’ return to their little house on the 
common, the War broke out. 


258 



THE CLAXTONS 


“It’s changed most people,” Judith remarked in the third year, “it’s 
altered some out of all recognition. Not Herbert and Martha, though. 
It’s just made them more so — ^more like themselves than they were 
before. Curious.” She shook her head. “Very curious.” 

But it wasn’t really curious at all; it was inevitable. The War could 
not help intensifying all that was characteristically Herbertian and 
Martha-ish in Herbert and Martha. It heightened their sense of re- 
mote superiority by separating them still further from the ordinary 
herd. For while ordinary people believed in the war, fought and 
worked to win, Herbert and Martha utterly disapproved and, on 
grounds that were partly Buddhistic, partly Socialist-International, 
partly Tolstoyan, refused to have anything to do with the accursed 
thing. In the midst of universal madness they almost alone were sane. 
And their superiority was proved and divinely hallowed by persecu- 
tion. Unofficial disapproval was succeeded, after the passing of the 
Conscription Act, by official repression. Herbert pleaded a conscien- 
tious objection. He was sent to work on the land in Dorset, a martyr, 
a different and spiritually higher being. The act of a brutal War Office 
had definitely promoted him out of the ranks of common humanity. 
In this promotion Martha vicariously participated. But what most 
powerfully stimulated her spirituality was not War-time persecution 
so much as War-time financial instability, War-time increase in prices. 
In the first weeks of confusion she had been panic-stricken; she im- 
agined that all her money was lost, she saw herself with Herbert and 
the children, hungry and houseless, begging from door to door. She 
immediately dismissed her two servants, she reduced the family food 
supply to a prison ration. Time passed and her money came in very 
much as usual. But Martha was so much delighted with the economies 
she had made that she would not revert to the old mode of life. 

“After all,” she argued, “it’s really not pleasant to have strangers in 
the house to serve you. And then, why should they serve us? They 
who are just as good as we are.” It was a hypocritical tribute to Chris- 
tian doctrine; they were really immeasurably inferior. “Just because 
we happen to be able to pay them — ^that’s why they have to serve us. 
It’s always made me feel uncomfortable and ashamed. Hasn’t it you, 
Herbert?” 

“Always,” said Herbert, who always agreed with his wife. 


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ALDOUS HUXLEY 


“Besides,” she went on, “I think one ought to do one’s own work. 
One oughtn’t to get out of touch with the humble small realities of 
life. I’ve felt really happier since I’ve been doing the housework, 
haven’t you?” 

Herbert nodded. 

“And it’s so good for the children. It teaches them humility and 
service. . . 

Doing without servants saved a clear hundred and fifty a year. 
But the economies she made on food were soon counterbalanced by 
the results of scarcity and infiation. With every rise in prices Martha’s 
enthusiasm for ascetic spirituality became more than ever fervid and 
profound. So too did her conviction that the children would be spoilt 
and turned into worldings if she sent them to an expensive boarding 
school. “Herbert and I believe very strongly in home education, don’t 
we, Herbert?” And Herbert would agree that they believed in it very 
strongly indeed. Home education without a governess, insisted Mar- 
tha. Why should one let one’s children be influenced by strangers? 
Perhaps badly influenced. Anyhow, not influenced in exactly the way 
one would influence them oneself. People hired governesses because 
they dreaded the hard work of educating their children. And of 
course it was hard work — ^the harder, the higher your ideals. 
But wasn’t it worth making sacrifices for one’s children? With the up- 
lifting questions, Martha’s smile curved itself into a crescent of more 
than ordinary soulfulness. Of course it was worth it. The work was an 
incessant delight — ^wasn’t it, Herbert? For what could be more de- 
lightful, more profoundly soul-satisfying than to help your own chil- 
dren to grow up beautifully, to guide them, to mould their characters 
into ideal forms, to lead their thoughts and desires into the noblest 
channels? Not by any system of compulsion, of course; children must 
never be compelled; the art of education was persuading children to 
mould themselves in the most ideal forms, was showing them how to 
be the makers of their own higher selves, was firing them with enthu- 
siasm for what Martha felicitously described as “self-sculpture.” 

On Sylvia, her mother had to admit to herself, this art of educa- 
tion was hard to practise. Sylvia didn’t want to sculpture herself, at 
any rate into the forms which Martha and Herbert found most beau- 
tiful. She was quite discouragingly without that sense of moral beauty 

260 



THE CLAXTONS 


on which the Claxtons relied as a means of education. It was ugly, 
they told her, to be rough, to disobey, to say rude things and tell lies. 
It was beautiful to be gentle and polite, obedient and truthful. ‘‘But 
I don’t mind being ugly,” Sylvia would retort. There was no possible 
answer, except a spanking; and spanking was against the Claxtons’ 
principles. 

Aesthetic and intellectual beauty seemed to mean as little to Sylvia 
as moral beauty. What difficulties they had to make her take an inter- 
est in the piano! This was the more extraordinary, her mother con- 
sidered, as Sylvia was obviously musical; when she was two and a half 
she had already been able to sing “Three Blind Mice” in tune. But she 
didn’t want to learn her scales. Her mother talked to her about a 
wonderful little boy called Mozart. Sylvia hated Mozart. “No, no!” 
she would shout, whenever her mother mentioned the abhorred name. 
“I don’t want to hear.” And to make sure of not hearing, she would 
put her fingers in her ears. Nevertheless, by the time she was nine she 
could play “The Merry Peasant” from beginning to end without a 
mistake. Martha still had hopes of turning her into the musician of 
the family. Paul, meanwhile, was the future Giotto; it had been de- 
cided that he inherited his father’s talents. He accepted his career as 
docilely as he had consented to learn his letters. Sylvia, on the other 
hand, simply refused to read. 

“But think,” said Martha ecstatically, “how wonderful it will be 
when you can open any book and read all the beautiful things people 
have written!” Her coaxing was ineffective. 

“I like playing better,” said Sylvia obstinately, with that expression 
of sullen bad temper which was threatening to become as chronic as 
her mother’s smile. True to their principles, Herbert and Martha let 
her play; but it was a grief to them. 

“You make your daddy and mummy so sad,” they said, trying to 
appeal to her better feelings. “So sad. Won’t you try to read to make 
your daddy and mummy happy?” The child confronted them with 
an expression of sullen, stubborn wretchedness, and shook her head. 
“Just to please us,” they wheedled. “You make us so sad.” Sylvia 
looked from one mournfully forgiving face to the other and burst 
into tears. 

“Naughty,” she sobbed incoherently. “Naughty. Go away.” She 

261 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


hated them for being sad, for making her sad. ‘‘No, go away, go 
away,” she screamed when they tried to comfort her. She cried in- 
consolably; but still, she wouldn’t read. 

Paul, on the other hand, was beautifully teachable and plastic. 
Slowly (for, with his adenoids, he was not a very intelligent boy) 
but with all the docility that could be desired, he learnt to read about 
the lass on the ass in the grass and other such matters. “Hear how 
beautifully Paul reads,” Martha would say, in the hope of rousing 
Sylvia to emulation. But Sylvia would only make a contemptuous 
face and walk out of the room. In the end she taught herself to read 
secretly, in a couple of weeks. Her parents’ pride in the achievement 
was tempered when they discovered her motives for making the ex- 
traordinary effort. 

“But what is this dreadful little book?” asked Martha holding up 
the copy of “Nick Carter and the Michigan Boulevard Murderers” 
which she had discovered carefully hidden under Sylvia’s winter un- 
derclothing. On the cover was a picture of a man being thrown off 
the roof of a skyscraper by a gorilla. 

The child snatched it from her. “It’s a lovely book,” she retorted, 
flushing darkly with an anger that was intensified by her sense of 
guilt. 

“Darling,” said Martha, beautifully smiling on the surface of her 
annoyance, “You mustn’t snatch like that. Snatching’s ugly.^^ “Don’t 
care.” “Let me look at it, please.” Martha held out her hand. She 
smiled, but her pale face was heavily determined, her eyes com- 
manded. 

Sylvia confronted her, stubbornly she shook her head, “No, I don’t 
want you to.” 

“Please,” begged her mother, more forgivingly and more com- 
mandingly than ever, “please,” And in the end, with a sudden out- 
burst of tearful rage, Sylvia handed over the book and ran ofiF into 
the garden. “Sylvia, Sylvia!” her mother called. But the child would 
not come back. To have stood by while her mother violated the 
secrets of her private world would have been unbearable. 

Owing to his adenoids Paul looked and almost was an imbecile. 
Without being a Christian Scientist, Martha disbelieved in doctors; 
more particularly she disliked surgeons, perhaps because they were so 

262 



THE CLAXTONS 


expensive. She left Paul’s adenoids unextirpated; they grew and fes- 
tered in his throat. From November to May he was never without a 
cold, a quinsy, an earache. The winter of 1921 was a particularly bad 
one for Paul. He began by getting influenza which turned into pneu- 
monia, caught measles during his convalescence and developed at the 
New Year an infection of the middle ear which threatened to leave 
him permanently deaf. The doctor peremptorily advised an opera- 
tion, treatment, a convalescence in Switzerland, at an altitude and in 
the sun. Martha hesitated to follow his advice. She had come to be so 
firmly convinced of her poverty that she did not see how she could 
possibly afford to do what the doctor ordered. In her perplexity she 
wrote to Judith. Two days later Judith arrived in person. 

“But do you want to kill the boy?” she asked her sister fiercely. 
“Why didn’t you get him out of this filthy dank hole weeks ago?” 

In a few hours she had arranged everything. Herbert and Martha 
were to start at once with the boy. They were to travel direct to 
Lausanne by sleeper. “But surely a sleeper’s hardly necessary,” ob- 
jected Martha. “You forget” (she beautifully smiled) “we’re simple 
folk.” “I only remember you’ve got a sick child with you,” said 
Judith, and the sleeper was booked. At Lausanne he was to be oper- 
ated. (Expensive reply-paid telegram to the clinic; poor Martha suf- 
fered.) And when he was well enough he was to go to a sanatorium 
at Leysin. (Another telegram, for which Judith paid, however. Mar- 
tha forgot to give the money back.) Martha and Herbert, meanwhile, 
were to find a good hotel, where Paul would join them as soon as his 
treatment was over. And they were to stay at least six months and 
preferably a year. Sylvia, meanwhile, was to stay with her aunt in 
England; that would save Martha a lot of money. Judith would try 
to find a tenant for the house on the common. 

“Talk of savages!” said Judith to her husband. “I’ve never seen such 
a little cannibal as Sylvia.” “It’s what comes of having vegetarian par- 
ents, I suppose.” 

“Poor little creature!” Judith went on with an indignant pity. 
“There are times when I’d like to drown Martha, she’s such a criminal 
fool. Bringing those children up without ever letting them go near 
another child of their own age! It’s scandalous! And then talking to 
them about spirituality and Jesus and ahimsa and beauty and good- 


263 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


ness knows what! And not wanting them to play stupid games, but 
be artistic! And always being sweet, even when she’s furious! It’s 
dreadful, really dreadful! And so silly. Can’t she see that the best way 
of turning a child into a devil is to try to bring it up as an angel? 
Ah well. . . She sighed and was silent, pensively; she herself had 
had no children and, if the doctors were right, never would have 
children. 

The weeks passed and gradually the little savage was civilized. Her 
first lessons were lessons in the art of moderation. The food, which 
at the Bamboroughs’ house was good and plentiful, was at the be- 
ginning a terrible temptation to a child accustomed to the austerities 
of the spiritual life. 

‘‘There’ll be more to-morrow,” Judith would say, when the child 
asked for yet another helping of pudding. “You’re not a snake, you 
know; you can’t store up to-day’s overeating for next week’s dinners. 
The only thing you can do with too much food is to be sick with it.” 

At first Sylvia would insist, would wheedle and whine for more. 
But luckily, as Judith remarked to her husband, luckily, she had a de- 
licate liver. Her aunt’s prophecies were only too punctually realized. 
After three or four bilious attacks Sylvia learned to control her greed. 
Her next lesson was in obedience. The obedience she was accustomed 
to give her parents was slow and grudging. Herbert and Martha never 
on principle, commanded, but only suggested. It was a system that 
had almost forced upon the child a habit of saying no, automatically 
to whatever proposition was made to her. “No, no, no!” she regularly 
began and then gradually suffered herself to be persuaded, reasoned, 
or moved by the expression of her parents’ sadness into a belated and 
generally grudging acquiescence. Obeying at long last, she felt an ob- 
scure resentment against those who had not compelled her to obey 
at once. Like most children, she would have liked to be relieved 
compulsorily of responsibility for her own actions; she was angry 
with her father and mother for forcing her to expend so much will 
in resisting them, such a quantity of painful emotion in finally letting 
her will be overcome. It would have been so much simpler if they 
had insisted from the first, had compelled her to obey at once and so 
spared her all her spiritual effort and pain. Darkly and bitterly did 
she resent the incessant appeal they made to her better feelings. It 

264 



THE CLAXTONS 


wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair. They had no right to smile and forgive 
and make her feel a beast, to fill her with sadness by being sad them- 
selves. She felt that they were somehow taking a cruel advantage of 
her. And perversely, just because she hated their being sad, she de- 
liberately went out of her way to say and do the things that would 
most sorely distress them. One of her favorite tricks was to threaten 
to “go and walk across the plank over the sluice.” Between the smooth 
pond and the shallow rippling of the stream, the gentle water became 
for a moment terrible. Pent in a narrow channel of oozy brickwork 
six feet of cataract tumbled with unceasing clamour into a black and 
heaving pool. It was a horrible place. How often her parents had 
begged her not to play near the sluice! Her threat would make them 
repeat their recommendations; they would implore her to be reason- 
able. “No, I won’t be reasonable,” Sylvia would shout and run off to- 
wards the sluice. If, in fact, she never ventured within five yards of 
the roaring gulf, that was because she was much more terrified for 
herself than her parents were for her. But she would go as near as 
she dared for the pleasure (the pleasure which she hated) of hearing 
her mother mournfully express her sadness at having a little girl so 
disobedient, so selfishly reckless of danger. She tried the same trick 
with her Aunt Judith. “I shall go into the woods by myself,” she men- 
aced one day, scowling. To her great surprise, instead of begging her 
to be reasonable and not to distress the grown-ups by disobediently 
running into danger, Judith only shrugged her shoulders. “Trot along 
then, if you want to be a little fool,” she said without looking up from 
her letter. Indignantly, Sylvia trotted; but she was frightened of being 
alone in the huge wood. Only pride kept her from returning at once. 
Damp, dirty, tear-stained, and scratched, she was brought back two 
hours later by a game keeper. 

“What luck,” said Judith to her husband, “what enormous luck that 
the little idiot should have gone and got herself lost.” The scheme of 
things was marshalled against the child’s delinquency. But Judith did 
not rely exclusively on the scheme of things to enforce her code; she 
provided her own sanctions. Obedience had to be prompt, or else 
there were prompt reprisals. Once Sylvia succeeded in provoking her 
aunt to real anger. The scene made a profound impression on her. 
An hour later she crept diffidently and humbly to where her aunt was 


265 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


sitting. “Fm sorry, Aunt Judith,” she said, “Fm sorry,” and burst into 
tears. It was the first time she had ever spontaneously asked for for- 
giveness. 

The lessons which profited Sylvia most were those which she learnt 
from other children. After a certain number of rather unsuccessful 
and occasionally painful experiments she learnt to play, to behave as 
an equal among equals. Hitherto she had lived almost exclusively as a 
chronological inferior among grown-ups, in a state of unceasing re- 
bellion and guerrilla warfare. Her life had been one long risorgimento 
against forgiving Austrians and all too gentle, beautifully smiling 
Bourbons. With the little Carters from down the road, the little 
Holmeses from over the way, she was now suddenly required to adapt 
herself to democracy and parliamentary government. There were 
difficulties at first; but when in the end the little bandit had acquired 
the arts of civility, she was unprecedentedly happy. The grown-ups 
exploited the childish sociability for their own educational ends. Ju- 
dith got up amateur theatricals; there was a juvenile performance of 
the Midsummer Nighfs Dream. Mrs. Holmes, who was musical, or- 
ganized the children’s enthusiasm for making a noise into part singing. 
Mrs. Carter taught them country dances. In a few months Sylvia had 
acquired all that passion for the Higher Life which her mother had 
been trying to cultivate for years, always in vain. She loved poetry, 
she loved music, she loved dancing — ^rather platonically, it was true; 
for Sylvia was one of those congenitally clumsy and aesthetically in- 
sensitive natures whose earnest passion for the arts is always destined 
to remain unconsummated. She loved ardently, but hopelessly; yet 
not unhappily for she was not yet, perhaps, never would be, conscious 
of the hopelessness of her passion. She even loved the arithmetic and 
geography, the English history and French grammar, which Judith 
had arranged that she should imbibe, along with the little Carters, 
from the little Carters’ formidable governess. 

“Do you remember what she was like when she arrived?” said Ju- 
dith one day to her husband. 

He nodded, comparing in his mind the sullen little savage of nine 
months before with the gravely, earnestly radiant child who had just 
left the room. 

“I feel like a lion tamer,” Judith went on with a little laugh that 

266 



THE CLAXTONS 


covered a great love and a great pride. “But what does one do, Jack, 
when the lion takes to high Anglicanism? Dolly Carter’s being pre- 
pared for confirmation and Sylvia’s caught the infection.” Judith 
sighed. “I suppose she’s already thinking we’re both damned.” 

“She’d be damned herself if she didn’t,” Jack answered philosophi- 
cally. “Much more seriously damned, what’s more, because she’d be 
damned in this world. It would be a terrible flaw in her character if 
she didn’t believe in some sort of rigmarole at this age.” 

“But suppose,” said Judith, “she were to go on believing in it?” 

Martha, meanwhile, had not been liking Switzerland, perhaps be- 
cause it suited her, physically, too well. There was something, she 
felt, rather indecent about enjoying such perfect health as she en- 
joyed at Leysin. It was difficult when one was feeling so full of ani- 
mal spirits, to think very solicitously about suffering humanity and 
God, about Buddha and the higher life and what not. She resented 
the genial care-free selfishness of her own healthy body. Waking peri- 
odically to conscience-stricken realizations that she had been think- 
ing of nothing for hours and even days together but the pleasure of 
sitting in the sun, of breathing the aromatic air beneath the pines, of 
walking in the high meadows picldng flowers and looking at the view, 
she would launch a campaign of intensive spirituality; but after a lit- 
tle while the sun and the bright eager air were too much for her and 
she would relapse once more into a shamefully irresponsible state of 
mere weU-being. 

“I shall be glad,” she kept saying, “when Paul is quite well again 
and we can go back to England.” 

And Herbert would agree with her, partly on principle, because, 
being resigned to his economic and moral inferiority, he always agreed 
with her, and partly because he too, though unprecedentedly healthy, 
found Switzerland spiritually unsatisfying. In a country where every- 
body wore knickerbockers, an open shirt and a rucksack, there was 
no superiority, no distinction in being so attired. The scandal of the 
top hat would have been the equivalent at Leysin of the scandal of 
the cross; he felt himself undistinguishedly orthodox. 

Fifteen months after their departure the Claxtons were back again 
in the house on the common. Martha had a cold and a touch of lum- 


267 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


bago; deprived of mountain exercise, Herbert was already succumb- 
ing to the attacks of his old enemy, chronic constipation. They over- 
Eowed with spirituality. 

Sylvia also returned to the house on the common and, for the first 
weeks, it was Aunt Judith here and Aunt Judith there, at Aunt 
Judith’s we did this. Aunt Judith never made me do that. Beautifully 
smiling, but with unacknowledged resentment at her heart, “Dearest,” 
Martha would say, “Pm not Aunt Judith.” She really hated her sister 
for having succeeded where she herself had failed. “You’ve done 
wonders with Sylvia,” she wrote to Judith, “and Herbert and I can 
never be sufficiently grateful.” And she would say the same in conver- 
sation to friends. “We can never be grateful enough to her, can we, 
Herbert?” And Herbert would punctually agree that they could 
never be grateful enough. But the more grateful to her sister she duti- 
fully and even supererogatively was, the more Martha hated her, the 
more she resented Judith’s success and her influence over the child. 
True, the influence had been unequivocally good; but it was precisely 
because it had been so good that Martha resented it. It was unbearable 
to her that frivolous, unspiritual Judith should have been able to in- 
fluence the child more happily than she had ever done. She had left 
Sylvia sullenly ill-mannered and disobedient, full of rebellious hatred 
for all the things which her parents admired; she returned to find her 
well behaved, obliging, passionately interested in music and poetry, 
earnestly preoccupied with the newly discovered problems of reli- 
gion. It was unbearable. Patiently Martha set to work to undermine 
her sister’s influence on the child. Judith’s own work had made the 
task more easy for her. For thanks to Judith, Sylvia was now 
malleable. Contact with children of her own age had warmed and 
softened and sensitized her, had mitigated her savage egotism and 
opened her up towards external influences. The appeal to her better 
feelings could now be made with the certainty of evoking a positive, 
instead of a rebeiliously negative, response. Martha made the appeal 
constantly and with skill. She harped (with a beautiful resignation, 
of course) on the family’s poverty. If Aunt Judith did and permitted 
many things which were not done and permitted in the house on the 
common, that was because Aunt Judith was so much better off. She 


268 



THE CLAXTONS 


could afford many luxuries which the Claxtons had to do without. 
“Not that your father and I mind doing without,’’ Martha insisted. 
“On the contrary. It’s really rather a blessing not to be rich. You re- 
member what Jesus said about rich people.” Sylvia remembered and 
was thoughtful. Martha would develop her theme; being able to af- 
ford luxuries and actually indulging in them had a certain coarsening, 
despiritualizing effect. It was so easy to become worldly. The implica- 
tion, of course, was that Aunt Judith and Uncle Jack had been 
tainted by worldliness. Poverty had happily preserved the Claxtons 
from the danger — poverty and also, Martha insisted, their own meri- 
torious wish. For of course they could have afforded to keep at least 
one servant, even in these difficult times; but they had preferred to 
do without, “because, you see, serving is better than being served.” 
Jesus had said that the way of Mary was better than the way of Mar- 
tha. “But Fm a Martha,” said Martha Claxton, “who tries her best to 
be a Mary too. Martha and Mary — ^that’s the best way of all. Practical 
service and contemplation. Your father isn’t one of those artists who 
selfishly detach themselves from all contact with the humble facts of 
life. He is a creator, but he is not too proud to do the humblest 
service.” Poor Herbert! he couldn’t have refused to do the humblest 
service, if Martha had commanded. Some artists, Martha continued, 
thought only of immediate success, worked only with an eye to 
profits and applause. But Sylvia’s father, on the contrary was one who 
worked without thought of the public, only for the sake of creating 
truth and beauty. 

On Sylvia’s mind, these and similar discourses, cpnstantly repeated 
with variations and in every emotional key, had a profound effect. 
With all the earnestness of puberty she desired to be good and spirit- 
ual and disinterested, she longed to sacrifice herself, it hardly mat- 
tered to what so long as the cause was noble. Her mother had now 
provided her with the cause. She gave herself up to it with all the 
stubborn energy of her nature. How fiercely she practised her piano! 
With what determination she read through even the dreariest books! 
She kept a notebook in which she copied out the most inspiring pas- 
sages of her daily reading; and another in which she recorded 
her good resolutions and with them, in an agonized and chronically 


269 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


remorseful diary, her failures to abide by the resolutions, her lapses 
from grace. “Greed. Promised I’d eat only one greengage. Took four 
at lunch. None to-morrow, O.G.H.M.T.B.G.” 

“What does O.G,H.M.T.B.G. mean?” asked Paul maliciously one 
day. 

Sylvia flushed darkly, “You’ve been reading my diary!” she said. 
“Oh, you beast, you little beast.” And suddenly she threw herself on 
her brother like a fury. His nose was bleeding when he got away from 
her. “If you ever look at it again, I’ll kill you.” And standing there 
with her clenched teeth and quivering nostrils, her hair flying loose 
around her pale face, she looked as though she meant it. “I’ll kill you,” 
she repeated. Her rage was justified; O.G.H.M.T.B.G. meant “O God, 
help me to be good.” 

That evening she came to Paul and asked his pardon. 

Aunt Judith and Uncle Jack had been in America for the best part 
of a year. 

“Yes, go; go by ail means,” Martha had said when Judith’s letter 
came, inviting Sylvia to spend a few days with them in London. “You 
mustn’t miss such a chance of going to the opera and all those lovely 
concerts.” 

“But is it quite fair, mother?” said Sylvia hesitatingly. “I mean, I 
don’t want to go and enjoy myself all alone. It seems somehow . , 

“But you ought to go,” Martha interrupted her. She felt so certain 
of Sylvia now that she had no fears of Judith. “For a musician like 
you it’s a necessity to hear Parsifal and the Magic Flute, I was mean- 
ing to take you myself next year; but now the opportunity has turned 
up this year, you must take it. Gratefully,” she added, with a sweet- 
ening of her smile. 

Sylvia went. Parsifal was like going to church, but much more so. 
Sylvia listened with a reverent excitement that was, however, inter- 
rupted from time to time by the consciousness, irrelevant, igno- 
ble even, but oh, how painful! that her frock, her stockings, her shoes 
were dreadfully different from those worn by that young girl of her 
own age, whom she had noticed in the row behind as she came in. 
And the girl, it had seemed to her, had returned her gaze derisively. 
Round the Holy Grail there was an explosion of bells and harmonious 

270 



THE CLAXTONS 


roaring. She felt ashamed of herself for thinking of such unworthy 
things in the presence of the mystery. And when, in the entr’acte, 
Aunt Judith offered her an ice, she refused almost indignantly. 

Aunt Judith was surprised. ‘‘But you used to love ices so much.” 

“But not now, Aunt Judith. Not now.” An ice in church — ^what sac- 
rilege! She tried to think about the Grail. A vision of green satin shoes 
and a lovely mauve artificial flower floated up before her inward eye. 

Next day they went shopping. It was a bright cloudless morning of 
early summer. The windows of the drapers’ shops in Oxford Street 
had blossomed with bright pale colours. The waxen dummies were 
all preparing to go to Ascot, to Henley, were already thinking of the 
Eton and Harrow match. The pavements were crowded; an immense 
blurred noise filled the air like a mist. The scarlet and golden buses 
looked regal and the sunlight glittered with a rich and oily radiance 
on the polished flanks of the passing limousines. A little procession 
of unemployed slouched past with a brass band at their head making 
joyful music, as though they were only too happy to be unemployed, 
as though it were a real pleasure to be hungry. 

Sylvia had not been in London for nearly two years, and these 
crowds, this noise, this innumerable wealth of curious and lovely 
things in every shining window went to her head. She felt even more 
excited than she had felt at Parsifal 

For an hour they wandered through Selfridge’s. “And now, 
Sylvia,” said Aunt Judith, when at last she had ticked off every item 
on her long list, “now you can choose whichever of these frocks you 
like best.” She waved her hand. A display of Summer Modes for 
Misses surrounded them on every side. Lilac and lavender, primrose 
and pink and green, blue and mauve, white, flowery, spotted — a sort 
of herbaceous border of young frocks. “Whichever you like,” Aunt 
Judith repeated. “Or if you’d prefer a frock for the evening. . . 

Green satin shoes and a big mauve flower. The girl had looked de- 
risively. It was unworthy, unw^orthy. 

“No, really. Aunt Judith,” She blushed, she stammered. “Really, I 
don’t need a frock. Really.” 

“All the more reason for having it if you don’t need it. Which one?” 

“No, really. I don’t, I can’t. - . .” And suddenly, to Aunt Judith’s 
uncomprehending astonishment, she burst into tears. 


271 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


The year was 1924. The house on the common basked in the soft 
late-Aprii sunshine. Through the open windows of the drawing-room 
came the sound of Sylvia’s practising. Stubbornly, with a kind of fixed 
determined fury, she was trying to master Chopin’s Valse in D flat. 
Under her conscientious and insensitive fingers the lilt and languor 
of the dance rhythm was laboriously sentimental, like the rendering 
on the piano of a cornet solo outside a public house; and the 
quick flutter of semi-quavers in the contrasting passages was a flutter, 
when Sylvia played, of mechanical butterflies, a beating of nickel- 
plated wings. Again and again she played, again and again. In the little 
copse on the other side of the stream at the bottom of the garden the 
birds went about their business undisturbed. On the trees the new 
small leaves were like the spirits of leaves, almost immaterial, but 
vivid like little flames at the tip of every twig. Herbert was sitting on 
a tree stump in the middle of the wood doing those yoga breathing 
exercises, accompanied by auto-suggestion, which he found so good 
for his constipation. Closing his right nostril with a long fore-finger, 
he breathed in deeply through his left — in, in, deeply, while he 
counted four heart beats. Then through sixteen beats he held 
his breath and between each beat he said to himself very quickly, “Fm 
not constipated, Fm not constipated.” When he had made the affirma- 
tion sixteen times, he closed his left nostril and breathed out, while he 
counted eight, through his right. After which he began again. The left 
nostril was the more favoured; for it breathed in with the air a faint 
cool sweetness of primroses and leaves and damp earth. Near him, on 
a camp stool, Paul was making a drawing of an oak tree. Art at all 
costs; beautiful, uplifting, disinterested Art. Paul was bored. Rotten 
old tree — ^what was the point of drawing it? Ail round him the sharp 
green spikes of the wild hyacinths came thrusting out of the dark 
mould. One had pierced through a dead leaf and lifted it, transfixed, 
into the air. A few more days of sunshine and every spike would 
break out into a blue flower. Next time his mother sent him into God- 
aiming on his bicycle, Paul was thinking, he’d see if he couldn’t over- 
charge her two shillings on the shopping instead of one, as he 
had done last time. Then he’d be able to buy some chocolate as well 
as go to the cinema; and perhaps even some cigarettes, though that 
might be dangerous. . . . 

272 



THE CLAXTONS 


“Well, Paul,” said his father, who had taken a sulScient dose of his 
mystical equivalent of Cascara, “how are you getting on?” He got up 
from his tree stump and walked across the glade to where the boy 
was sitting. The passage of time had altered Herbert very little; his 
explosive beard was still as blond as it had always been, he was as thin 
as ever, his head showed no signs of going bald. Only his teeth had 
visibly aged; his smile was discoloured and broken. 

“But he really ought to go to a dentist,” Judith had insistently 
urged on her sister, the last time they met. 

“He doesn’t want to,” Martha had replied. “He doesn’t really be- 
lieve in them.” But perhaps her own reluctance to part with the neces- 
sary number of guineas had something to do with Herbert’s lack of 
faith in dentists. “Besides,” she went on, “Herbert hardly notices such 
merely material, physical things. He lives so much in the noumenal 
world that he’s hardly aware of the phenomenal. Really not aware.” 

“Well, he jolly well ought to be aware,” Judith answered, “that’s all 
I can say.” She was indignant. 

“How are you getting on?” Herbert repeated and laid his hand on 
the boy’s shoulder. 

“The bark’s most horribly difficult to get right,” Paul answered in 
a complainingly angry voice. 

“That makes it all the more worth while to get right,” said Herbert. 
“Patience and work — they’re the only things. Do you know how a 
great man once defined genius?” Paul knew very well how a great 
man had once defined genius; but the definition seemed to him so stu- 
pid and such a personal insult to himself, that he did not answer, only 
grunted. His father bored him, maddeningly. “Genius,” Herbert went 
on, answering his own question, “genius is an infinite capacity for tak- 
ing pains.” At that moment Paul detested his father. 

“One-and two-and three-and, One-and two-and three-and . . 
Under Sylvia’s fingers the mechanical butterflies continued to flap 
their metal wings. Her face was set, determined, angry; Herbert’s 
great man would have found genius in her. Behind her stiff de- 
termined back her mother came and went with a feather brush in her 
hand, dusting. Time had thickened and coarsened her; she walked 
heavily. Her hair had begun to go grey. When she had finished dust- 
ing, or rather when she was tired of it, she sat down. Sylvia was labori- 


273 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


ously cornet-soloing through the dance rhythm. Martha closed her 
eyes. “Beautiful, beautiful!” she said and smiled her most beautiful 
smile. “You play it beautifully, my darling.” She was proud of her 
daughter. Not merely as a musician; as a human being too. When she 
thought what trouble she had had with Sylvia in the old days. . . . 
“Beautifully.” She rose at last and went upstairs to her bedroom. Un- 
locking a cupboard, she took out a box of candied fruits and ate sev- 
eral cherries, a plum, and three apricots. Herbert had gone back to his 
studio and his unfinished picture of “Europe and America at the feet 
of Mother India,” Paul pulled a catapult out of his pocket, fitted a 
buckshot into the leather pouch and let fiy at a nuthatch that was run- 
ning like a mouse up the oak tree on the other side of the glade. 
“Hell!” he said as the bird flew away unharmed. But the next shot was 
more fortunate. There was a spurt of flying feathers, there were two 
or three little squeaks. Running up Paul found a hen chafSnch lying 
in the grass. There was blood on the feathers. Thrilling with a kind of 
disgusted excitement Paul picked up the little body. How warm. It 
was the first time he had ever killed anything. What a good shot! But 
there was nobody he could talk to about it. Sylvia was no good: she 
was almost worse than mother about some things. With a fallen 
branch he scratched a hole and buried the little corpse, for fear some- 
body might find it and wonder how it had been killed. They’d be 
furious if they knew! He went into lunch feeling tremendously 
pleased with himself. But his face fell as he looked round the table. 
“Only this beastly cold stuff?” 

“Paul, Paul,” said Ms father reproachfully. 

“Where’s mother?” 

“She’s not eating to-day,” Herbert answered. 

“Ail the same,” Paul grumbled under his breath, “she really might 
have taken the trouble to make something hot for us.” 

Sylvia meanwhile sat without raising her eyes from her plate of po- 
tato salad, eating in silence. 

ALDOUS HUXLEY, born at Godaiming in Surrey, England, on 
July 26, 1894, is a member of two illustrious families. His paternal 
grandfather was Thomas Huxley, the eminent biologist and defender 
of Darwin; his great-uncle was the famous critic and poet, Matthew 
Arnold. Julian Huxley, the scientist, is his brother. Aldous planned a 

274 



THE CLAXTONS 


scientific career for himself and was preparing to study medicine when 
he incurred an eye infection and within a few months went almost 
blind. The failure of his sight compelled him to leave Eton, deprived 
him of the usual avocations of an English gentleman, and made a scien- 
tific career impossible. Already intellectual by nature, he was forced 
more than ever to live in a world of ideas. He was happily spared, 
however, the disabilities of complete blindness, and, his eyesight im- 
proving somewhat, he entered Oxford. He was graduated in 1915 with 
First Class Honors in English literature. He published his first vol- 
ume, a book of poems called The Burning Wheel, in 1916; married in 
1919 a Belgian refugee; and at about the same time became a music, 
art, and drama critic for the Athenaeum. In 1923 he and his wife went 
to Italy, where they spent most of their time for seven years; there 
in 1926 they became intimate friends of the D. H. Lawrences. At this 
time Lawrence exercised a very considerable influence upon the ideas 
of Huxley. Early in the 1930’s, having returned to England, Huxley 
met Gerald Heard, who was developing an interest in mysticism*, in 
connection with their activities as members of a pacifist organization, 
the Peace Pledge Union. Heard has had a great deal to do with shaping 
Huxley’s recent attitudes. In 1937 the two men came to the United 
States together, Huxley particularly in an attempt to improve his sight 
— an attempt which has proved successful — ^by taking eye exercises in 
southern California. For several years he lived on the desert near Los 
Angeles, but in 1950 he returned to Europe. 

Probably the most striking feature of Huxley’s writing is his use 
of fiction to present ideas. Sometimes he develops them through 
friendly conversations among his characters; at other times he resorts 
to long monologues or presents reflective pages from diaries. It has 
been charged that his real interest is in exposition and that he weakens 
his stories by turning the reader’s attention away from character and 
plot. But there seems no reason to prescribe rigidly the content of fic- 
tion. Professor W. Y. Tindall, who calls attention to the fact that the 
plays of Shaw and the novels of Wells share the Huxleyan predilection 
for exposition, concludes that these writers have devised a new but 
perfectly acceptable technique for the writing of fiction. 

Huxley’s development falls into three periods. At the beginning he 
was almost wholly negative. There was hardly a human activity in 
which he could find genuine value. Scientific investigation led no- 
where; love was a transitory and deceptive emotion attached to tem- 
porary physical desire; religion probably rested upon illusion. An at- 
tentive audience followed the Huxley of this period, the period of the 
novels Cro?ne Yellouo (1921) and Antic Hay (1923), and of most of 
the short stories, published in Limbo (1920), Mortal Coils (1922), 
Young Archimedes (1924), and Two or Three Graces (1926). These 

275 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


were years of disillusionment which followed World War I Many peo- 
ple no longer believed in the values by which the nineteenth century 
had lived; some believed in nothing at all. Huxley uttered, with great 
urbanity, learning, and verbal dexterity, exactly the satiric criticism 
which they wished to hear. He was the English apostle of the lost 
generation. Those Barren Leaves (1925), the last novel which belongs 
to this early period, while it contained the usual brilliant satire, con- 
cluded with a development which might have warned a sensitive critic 
that Huxley might not remain a disillusioned cynic. Calamy, one of the 
principal characters, finds value in the mystical search for God. There 
were almost no critics, however, who seemed to discern what the end 
of this book might portend for the future development of the author; 
and, indeed, Huxley himself, under the influence of Lawrence, turned 
temporarily in another direction. . 

Huxley’s second period is that of the novels Point Counterpomt 
(1928) and Brave New World (1932) and of the short stories in Brief 
Candles (1930). D. H. Lawrence had preached a curious personal 
religion. Learn to recognize, he said, the voices, the promptings, of 
your unconscious self, which is your true self. Through them, he went 
on, you will learn — ^and this is very difficult — ^what you yourself really 
want to do; and this is what you should do. Your mind will never 
teach you any profound truth; you can only know yourself and the 
universe intuitively, through your unconscious self. Through the un- 
conscious mind you may perhaps even know God. Huxley accepted 
part of this doctrine, altered part, left out part, and came up with a 
positive source of value. His spokesman in Point Counterpoint is 
Rampion, a character modeled upon Lawrence himself. Satisfaction in 
life, thinks Rampion, depends upon your being yourself, that is, upon 
your being genuinely a human being. Do what you will, but do not 
will to be either an angel or a devil. By trying to be a saint, you will 
become a warped human being. Do not neglect the legitimate claims 
of your body. Do not permit some of your capacities to develop at the 
expense of the rest. The intellectual life is particularly seductive; take 
care not to substitute thinking about life for living; take care not to 
" permit your emotions to shrivel into dry ideas. Do not look to another 
world for satisfaction; live in this. Brave New World simply represents 
a world of the future in which one of man’s capacities, that of 
thought, has triumphed. In this new world men are secure and happy, 
but they have attained this state by eliminating ail deep emotion and 
the richness of Hving which comes«from feeling. Brave New World is 
a profoundly pessimistic book, since its author apparently sees but two 
alternatives for man: to keep love, hate, fear, desire, and the tragedies 
which they involve; or scientifically to destroy these emotions and 

276 



THE CLAXTONS 


with them all the poetry of life. In this book only a savage from New 
Mexico, who is not like the men of this new world, protests. (The 
American home of Lawrence was in New Mexico.) Huxley appears 
not to like either the new man or the old. His enthusiasm for Ramp- 
ion’s complete human being has dwindled; but in a pinch he still per- 
haps prefers him to the mechanized products of the scientific intellect 
who inhabit his imaginary new world. 

The tone of most of Huxley’s work through his first two periods 
was satiric and pessimistic, despite the fact that the ideal man of Point 
Counterpoint y neither angel nor devil, seems to have aroused some 
hope in him. But throughout his work of this time there appear fre- 
quent discussions of religion. These too were generally satiric, but it 
appears to be a fact, and a fact which escaped the notice of critics then, 
that Huxley at no time attacked an honest, intelligently religious man. 
He pilloried fools and knaves. Further, his interest in religion cen- 
tered upon mysticism. Lawrence’s emphasis upon intuitions as guides 
to life and perhaps to God must have reinforced Huxley’s own inter- 
ests, even though the result did not show immediately. It was Gerald 
Heard, himself in the process of becoming a practicing mystic, who 
completed Huxley’s conversion. Huxley, a cynic in the 1920’s, became 
a religious mystic in the 1930’s. God, both immanent and transcendent, 
the Ground of all being, can be experienced, he says, by anyone who 
seeks Him in contemplative quiet, in purity of heart, and in a spirit of 
detachment from earthly desire. No longer does he find value on the 
strictly human level of existence. In this respect he has practically re- 
turned to the pessimism concerning purely earthly values which 
characterized his early years. But now man can find value on the su- 
perhuman level, in the achievement of sainthood. Man can, after all, 
become an angel. This is the doctrine which inspires Huxley’s recent 
novels: Eyeless in Gaza (1936), After Many a Summer Dies the Swan 
(1939), Time Must Have a Stop (1944), and Ape and Essence (1948). 

Besides novels and short stories, Huxley has written many volumes 
of essays, some poetry, and one full-length drama. 

“The Claxtons” is taken from Brief Candles, 

A good book-length discussion of Huxley is Alexander Henderson, 
Aldous Huxley (1936). A great many informative short studies have 
been written, among the best of which are David Daiches, The Novel 
and the Modern World (1939), pp. 188-210; Helen W. Estrich, “Jest- 
ing Pilate Tells the Answer: Aldous Huxley,” Sewanee Review, xlvii 
(1939), 63 ff.; Winfield H. Rogers, “Aldous Huxley’s Humanism,” 
Sewanee Review, xliii (1935), 262-272; W. Y. Tindall, “The Trouble 
with Aldous Huxley,” American Scholar, xi (1942), 452-464; H. T. 
Webster, “Aldous Huxley: Notes on a Moral Evolution,” South Atlan- 

277 



ALDOUS HUXLEY 


tic Quarterly^ xlv (1946), 377 If. An excellent German study is Su- 
zanne Heintz-Friedrich, Aldous Huxley: Entwicklung seiner Meta- 
physik (1949). 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Martha and Herbert are perfectly sincere in their spirituality 
so far as they are aware. But do they understand themselves well? To 
what extent has one or the other of them become spiritual as a means 
of achieving power over others? as a defense against blame for failure? 
as a result of slight masochistic tendencies? because of ill health? In 
general, does their so-called spirituality actually sharpen their insights 
and improve their conduct, as they think, or does it afford them an 
excuse for not developing themselves as well-rounded human beings? 
Explain exactly why you answer as you do. 

2. “Can’t she see,” asks Judith concerning her sister, “that the 
best way of turning a child into a devil is to try to bring it up as an 
angel?” The question is applicable in one way to the episode of the 
bacon and in another to Sylvia’s general attitude toward her parents. 
Distinguish. How does Judith’s treatment of Sylvia differ from 
Martha’s, and why is it successful? Why is Martha finally able to con- 
vert Sylvia? Why does Sylvia weep when her aunt offers to buy her a 
dress? 

3. What aspect of Paul’s nature do his parents refuse, at least 
temporarily, to recognize? How does this refusal affect Paul? 

4. State what seems to you to be the theme* of the story. To 
what period of Huxley’s writing does the story belong? Why do you 
answer as you do? 

5. How much of the story is narrative arranged in chronological 
sequence, and how much is flashback? It might be well to list in one 
column the events which occur in the “now” of the narrative, and in 
another those which are brought in by association. The principal nar- 
rative line can thus be made to appear. What do you think Huxley 
expected to gain by avoiding chronological continuity and throwing 
much material into flashbacks? How much time does the story, exclu- 
sive of these, cover? Would it have been better as a novel? Explain. Do 
you feel that the story is disunified? If not, what gives it unity? — ^the 
fact that it concerns the lives of but few characters? the theme? the 
mood? Does the story have a climax? If so, what is it, and has it 
bearing upon the theme? 


278 




THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS 
MACOMBER 

It was now lunch time and they were all 
sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that 
nothing had happened. 

“Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?’’ Macomber asked. 

“Fll have a gimlet,” Robert Wilson told him. 

“I’ll have a gimlet too. I need something,” Macomber’s wife said. 

“I suppose it’s the thing to do,” Macomber agreed. “Tell him to 
make three gimlets.” 

The mess boy had started them already, lifting the bottles out of 
the canvas cooling bags that sweated wet in the wind that blew 
through the trees that shaded the tents. 

“What had I ought to give them?” Macomber asked. 

“A quid would be plenty,” Wilson told him. “You don’t want to 
spoil them.” 

“Will the headman distribute it?” 

“Absolutely.” 

Francis Macomber had, half an hour before, been carried to his 
tent from the edge of the camp in triumph on the arms and shoulders 
of the cook, the personal boys, the skinner and the porters. The gun- 
bearers had taken no part in the demonstration. When the native boys 
put him down at the door of his tent, he had shaken all their hands, 
received their congratulations, and then gone into the tent and sat on 

Reprinted from The Fifth Column a?id the First Forty -mine Stories by 
Ernest Hemingway; copyright, 1938, by Ernest Hemingway; used by per- 
mission of the publishers, Charles Scribner’s Sons. 


279 


ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


the bed until his wife came in. She did not speak to him when she 
came in and he left the tent at once to wash his face and hands in the 
portable wash basin outside and go over to the dining tent to sit in a 
comfortable canvas chair in the breeze and the shade. 

“You’ve got your lion,” Robert Wilson said to him, “and, a damned 
fine one too.” 

Mrs. Macomber looked at Wilson quickly. She was an extremely 
handsome and well-kept woman of the beauty and social position 
which had, five years before, commanded five thousand dollars as the 
price of endorsing, with photographs, a beauty product which she 
had never used. She had been married to Francis Macomber for 
eleven years. 

“He is a good lion, isn’t he?” Macomber said. His wife looked at 
him now. She looked at both these men as though she had never seen 
them before. 

One, Wilson, the white hunter, she knew she had never truly seen 
before. He was about middle height with sandy hair, a stubby mus- 
tache, a very red face and extremely cold blue eyes with faint white 
wrinkles at the corners that grooved merrily when he smiled. 
He smiled at her now and she looked away from his face at the way 
his shoulders sloped in the loose tunic he wore with the four big car- 
tridges held in loops where the left breast pocket should have been, 
at his big brown hands, his old slacks, his very dirty boots and back 
to his red face again. She noticed where the baked red of his face 
stopped in a white line that marked the circle left by his Stetson -hat 
that hung now from one of the pegs of the tent pole. 

“Well, here’s to the lion,” Robert Wilson said. He smiled at her 
again and, not smiling, she looked curiously at her husband. 

Francis Macomber was very tall, very well built if you did 
not mind that length of bone, dark, his hair -cropped like an oarsman, 
rather thin-lipped, and was considered handsome. He was dressed in 
the same sort of safari clothes that Wilson wore except that his were 
new, he was thirty-five years old, kept himself very fit, was good at 
court games, had a number of big-game fishing records, and had just 
shown himself, very publicly, to be a coward. 

“Here’s to the lion,” he said. “I can’t ever thank you for what you 

ad” 


280 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 

Margaret, his wife, looked away from him and back to Wilson. 

“Let’s not talk about the lion,” she said. 

Wilson looked over at her without smiling and now she smiled at 
him. 

“It’s been a very strange day,” she said. “Hadn’t you ought to put 
your hat on even under the canvas at noon? You told me that, you 
know.” 

“Might put it on,” said Wilson. 

“You know you have a very red face, Mr. Wilson,” she told him 
and smiled again. 

“Drink,” said Wilson. 

“I don’t think so,” she said. “Francis drinks a great deal, but his face 
is never red.” 

“It’s red today,” Macomber tried a joke. 

“No,” said Margaret. “It’s mine that’s red today. But Mr. Wilson’s 
is always red.” 

“Must be racial,” said Wilson. “I say, you wouldn’t like to drop my 
beauty as a topic, would you?” 

“I’ve just started on it.” 

“Let’s chuck it,” said Wilson. 

“Conversation is going to be so difficult,” Margaret said. 

“Don’t be silly, Margot,” her husband said. 

“No difficulty,” Wilson said. “Got a damn fine lion.” 

Margot looked at them both and they both saw that she was going 
to cry. Wilson had seen it coming for a long time and he dreaded it. 
Macomber was past dreading it. 

“I wish it hadn’t happened. Oh, I wish it hadn’t happened,” she said 
and started for her tent. She made no noise of crying but they could 
see that her shoulders were shaking under the rose-colored, sun- 
proofed shirt she wore. 

“Women upset,” said Wilson to the tall man. “Amounts to nothing. 
Strain on the nerves and one thing’n another.” 

“No,” said Macomber. “I suppose that I rate that for the rest of my 
life now.” 

“Nonsense. Let’s have a spot of the giant killer,” said Wilson. “For- 
get the whole thing. Nothing to it anyway.” 


281 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


“We might try,” said Macomber. “I won’t forget what you did for 
me though.” 

“Nothing,” said Wilson. “All nonsense.” 

So they sat there in the shade where the camp was pitched under 
some wide-topped acacia trees with a boulder-strewn cliff behind 
them, and a stretch of grass that ran to the bank of a boulder-filled 
stream in front with forest beyond it, and drank their just-cool lime 
drinks and avoided one another’s eyes while the boys set the table for 
lunch. Wilson could tell that the boys all knew about it now and when 
he saw Macomber’s personal boy looking curiously at his master while 
he was putting dishes on the table he snapped at him in Swahili, The 
boy turned away with his face blank. 

“What were you telling him?” Macomber asked. 

“Nothing. Told him to look alive or I’d see he got about fifteen of 
the best.” 

“What’s that? Lashes?” 

“It’s quite illegal,” Wilson said. “You’re supposed to fine them.” 

“Do you still have them whipped?” 

“Oh, yes. They could raise a row if they chose to complain. But 
they don’t. They prefer it to the fines.” 

“How strange!” said Macomber. 

“Not strange, really,” Wilson said. “Which would you rather do? 
Take a good birching or lose your pay?” 

Then he felt embarrassed at asking it and before Macomber could 
answer he went on, “We all take a beating every day, you know, one 
way or another.” 

This was no better, “Good God,” he thought. “I am a diplomat, 
aren’t I?” 

“Yes, we take a beating,” said Macomber, still not looking at him. 
“Fm awfully sorry about that lion business. It doesn’t have to go any 
further, does it? I mean no one will hear about it, will they?” 

“You mean will I tell it at the Mathaiga Club?” Wilson looked at 
him now coldly. He had not expected this. So he’s a bloody four-letter 
man as well as a bloody coward, he thought. I rather liked him too 
until today. But how is one to know about an American? 

“No,” said Wilson. “I’m a professional hunter. We never talk about 

282 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


our clients. You can be quite easy on that. It’s supposed to be bad 
form to ask us not to talk though.” 

He had decided now that to break would be much easier. He would 
eat, then, by himself and could read a book with his meals. They 
would eat by themselves. He would see them through the safari on a 
very formal basis — ^what was it the French called it? Distinguished 
consideration — and it would be a damn sight easier than having to go 
through this emotional trash. He’d insult him and make a good clean 
break. Then he could read a book with his meals and he’d still be 
drinking their whisky. That was the phrase for it when a safari went 
bad. You ran into another white hunter and you asked, ^‘How 
is everything going?” and he answered, “Oh, I’m still drinking their 
whisky,” and you knew everything had gone to pot. 

“I’m sorry,” Macomber said and looked at him with his American 
face that would stay adolescent until it became middle-aged, and Wil- 
son noted his crew-cropped hair, fine eyes only faintly shifty, good 
nose, thin lips and handsome jaw. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize that. 
There are lots of things I don’t know.” 

So what could he do, Wilson thought. He was all ready to break it 
off quickly and neatly and here the beggar was apologizing after he 
had just insulted him. He made one more attempt. “Don’t worry 
about me talking,” he said. “I have a living to make. You know in 
Africa no woman ever misses her lion and no white man ever bolts.” 

“I bolted like a rabbit,” Macomber said. 

Now what in hell were you going to do about a man who talked 
like that, Wilson wondered. 

Wilson looked at Macomber with his fiat, blue, machine-gunner’s 
eyes and the other smiled back at him. He had a. pleasant smile if you 
did not notice how his eyes showed when he was hurt. 

“Maybe I can fix it up on buffalo,” he said. “We’re after them next, 
aren’t we?” 

“In the morning if you like,” Wilson told him. Perhaps he had been 
wrong. This was certainly the way to take it. You most certainly 
could not tell a damned thing about an American. He was all for Ma- 
comber again. If you could forget the morning. But, of course, you 
couldn’t. The morning had been about as bad as they come. 


283 



ERNEST HEM! NGWAY 


“Here comes the Memsahib,” he said. She was walking over from 
her tent looking refreshed and cheerful and quite lovely. She had a 
very perfect oval face, so perfect that you expected her to be stupid. 
But she wasn’t stupid, Wilson thought, no, not stupid. 

“How is the beautiful red-faced Mr. Wilson? Are you feeling 
better, Francis, my pearl?” 

“Oh, much,” said Macomber. 

“Fve dropped the whole thing,” she said, sitting down at the table. 
“What importance is there to whether Francis is any good at killing 
lions? That’s not his trade. That’s Mr. Wilson’s trade. Mr. Wilson is 
really very impressive killing anything. You do kill anything, don’t 
you?” 

“Oh, anything,” said Wilson. “Simply anything.” They are, he 
thought, the hardest in the world; the hardest, the cruelest, the most 
predatory and the most attractive and their men have softened or 
gone to pieces nervously as they have hardened. Or is it that they 
pick men they can handle? They can’t know that much at the age 
they marry, he thought. He was grateful that he had gone through 
his education on American women before now because this was a 
very attractive one. 

“We’re going after buff in the morning,” he told her. 

“Fin coming,” she said. 

“No, you’re not.” 

“Oh, yes, I am. Mayn’t I, Francis?” 

“Why not stay in camp?” 

“Not for anything,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss something like today 
for anything.” 

When she left, Wilson was thinking, when she went off to cry, she 
seemed a hell of a fine woman. She seemed to understand, to realize, 
to be hurt for him and for herself and to know how things really 
stood. She is away for twenty minutes and now she is back, simply 
enamelled in that American female cruelty. They are the damnedest 
women. Really the damnedest. 

“We’ll put on another show for you tomorrow,” Francis Macom- 
ber said. 

“You’re not coming,” Wilson said. 

“You’re very mistaken,” she told him. “And I want so to see you 

284 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCiS MACOMBER 


perform again. You were lovely this morning. That is if blowing 
things’ heads off is lovely.” 

“Here’s the lunch,” said Wilson. “You’re very merry, aren’t you?” 

“Why not? I didn’t come out here to be dull.” 

“Well, it hasn’t been dull,” Wilson said. He could see the boulders 
in the river and the high bank beyond with the trees and he remem- 
bered the morning, 

“Oh, no,” she said. “It’s been charming. And tomorrow. You don’t 
know how I look forward to tomorrow.” 

“That’s eland he’s offering you,” Wilson said. 

“They’re the big cowy things that jump like hares, aren’t they?” 

“I suppose that describes them,” Wilson said. 

“It’s very good meat,” Macomber said. 

“Did you shoot it, Francis?” she asked. 

“Yes.” 

“They’re not dangerous, are they?” 

“Only if they fall on you,” Wilson told her. 

“Fm so glad.” 

“Why not let up on the bitchery just a little, Margot,” Macomber 
said, cutting the eland steak and putting some mashed potato, gravy 
and carrot on the down-turned fork that tined through the piece of 
meat. 

“I suppose I could,” she said, “since you put it so prettily.” 

“Tonight we’ll have champagne for the lion,” Wilson said. “It’s a 
bit too hot at noon.” 

“Oh, the lion,” Margot said. “I’d forgotten the lion!” 

So, Robert Wilson thought to himself, she is giving him a ride, isn’t 
she? Or do you suppose that’s her idea of putting up a good show? 
How should a woman act when she discovers her husband is a 
bloody coward? She’s damn cruel but they’re all cruel. They govern, 
of course, and to govern one has to be cruel sometimes. Still, I’ve seen 
enough of their damn terrorism. 

“Have some more eland,” he said to her politely. 

That afternoon, late, Wilson and Macomber went out in the motor 
car with the native driver and the two gun-bearers. Mrs. Macomber 
stayed in the camp. It was too hot to go out, she said, and she was 
going with them in the early morning. As they drove off Wilson saw 

285 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


her standing under the big tree, looking pretty rather than beautiful 
in her faintly rosy khaki, her dark hair drawn back off her forehead 
and gathered in a knot low on her neck, her face as fresh, he thought, 
as though she were in England. She waved to them as the car went 
off through the swale of high grass and curved around through the 
trees into the small hills of orchard bush. 

In the orchard bush they found a herd of impala, and leaving the 
car they stalked one old ram with long, wide-spread horns and Ma- 
comber killed it with a very creditable shot that knocked the buck 
down at a good two hundred yards and sent the herd off bounding 
wildly and leaping over one another’s backs in long, leg-drawn-up 
leaps as unbelievable and as floating as those one makes sometimes in 
dreams. 

“That was a good shot,” Wilson said. “They’re a small target.” 

“Is it a worth-while head?” Macomber asked. 

“It’s excellent,” Wilson told him. “You shoot like that and you’ll 
have no trouble.” 

“Do you think we’ll find buffalo tomorrow?” 

“There’s a good chance of it. They feed out early in the morning 
and with luck we may catch them in the open.” 

“I’d like to clear away that lion business,” Macomber said. “It’s not 
very pleasant to have your wife see you do something like that.” 

I should think it would be even more unpleasant to do it, Wilson 
thought, wife or no wife, or to talk about it having done it. But he 
said, “I wouldn’t think about that any more. Any one could be upset 
by his first lion. That’s all over.” 

But that night after dinner and a whisky and soda by the fire before 
going to bed, as Francis Macomber lay on his cot with the mosquito 
bar over him and listened to the night noises it was not all over. It was 
neither all over nor was it beginning. It was there exactly as it hap- 
pened with some parts of it indelibly emphasized and he was miser- 
ably ashamed at it. But more than shame he felt cold, hollow fear in 
him. The fear was still there like a cold slimy hollow in all the empti- 
ness where once his confidence had been and it made him feel sick. 
It was still there with him now. 

It had started the night before when he had wakened and heard the 
lion roaring somewhere up along the river. It was a deep sound and 

286 



THE SHORT HAPPY LJFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


at the end there were sort of coughing grunts that made him seem just 
outside the tent, and when Francis Macomber woke in the night to 
hear it he was afraid. He could hear his wife breathing quietly, asleep. 
There was no one to tell he was afraid, nor to be afraid with him, and, 
lying alone, he did not know the Somali proverb that says a brave man 
is always frightened three times by a lion; when he first sees his track, 
when he first hears him roar and when he first confronts him. Then 
while they were eating breakfast by lantern light out in the dining 
tent, before the sun was up, the lion roared again and Francis thought 
he was just at the edge of camp. 

‘‘Sounds like an old-timer,” Robert Wilson said, looking up from 
his kippers and coffee. “Listen to him cough.” 

“Is he very close?” 

“A mile or so up the stream.” 

“Will we see him?” 

“Well have a look.” 

“Does his roaring carry that far? It sounds as though he were right 
in camp.” 

“Carries a hell of a long way,” said Robert Wilson. “It’s strange the 
way it carries. Hope he’s a shootable cat. The boys said there was a 
very big one about here.” 

“If I get a shot, where should I hit him,” Macomber asked, “to stop 
him?” 

“In the shoulders,” Wilson said. “In the neck if you can make it. 
Shoot for bone. Break him down.” 

“I hope I can place it properly,” Macomber said. 

“You shoot very well,” Wilson told him. “Take your time. Make 
sure of him. The first one in is the one that counts.” 

“What range will it be?” 

“Can’t tell. Lion has something to say about that. Won’t shoot un- 
less it’s close enough so you can make sure.” 

“At under a hundred yards?” Macomber asked. 

Wilson looked at him quickly. 

“Hundred’s about right. Might have to take him a bit under. 
Shouldn’t chance a shot at much over that. A hundred’s a decent range. 
You can hit him wherever you want at that. Here comes the Mem- 
sahib.” 


287 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


“Good morning,” she said. “Are we going after that lion?” 

“As soon as you deal with your breakfast,” Wilson said. “How are 
you feeling?” 

“Marvellous,” she said. “I’m very excited.” 

“Fll just go and see that everything is ready,” Wilson went off. As 
he left the lion roared again, 

“Noisy beggar,” Wilson said. “Well put a stop to that.” 

“What’s the matter, Francis?” his wife asked him. 

“Nothing,” Macomber said. 

“Yes, there is,” she said. “What are you upset about?” 

“Nothing,” he said. 

“Tell me,” she looked at him. “Don’t you feel well?” 

“It’s that damned roaring,” he said. “It’s been going on all night, 
you know.” 

“Why didn’t you wake me,” she said. “I’d love to have heard it.” 

“I’ve got to kill the damned thing,” Macomber said, miserably. 

“Well, that’s what you’re out here for, isn’t it?” 

“Yes. But I’m nervous. Hearing the thing roar gets on my nerves.” 

“Well then, as Wilson said, kill him and stop his roaring.” 

“Yes, darling,” said Francis Macomber. “It sounds easy, doesn’t it?” 

“You’re not afraid, are you?” 

“Of course not. But I’m nervous from hearing him roar all night.” 

“You’ll kill him marvellously,” she said. “I know you will. Fm aw- 
fully anxious to see it.” 

“Finish your breakfast and we’ll be starting.” 

“It’s not light yet,” she said. “This is a ridiculous hour.” 

Just then the lion roared in a deep-chested moaning, suddenly gut- 
tural, ascending vibration that seemed to shake the air and ended in a 
, sigh and a heavy, deep-chested grunt. 

“He sounds almost here,” Macomber’s wife said. 

“My God,” said Macomber. “I hate that damned noise.” 

“It’s very impressive.” 

“Impressive. It’s frightful,” 

Robert Wilson came up then carrying his short, ugly, shockingly 
big-bored .505 Gibbs and grinning. 

“Come on,” he said, “Your gun-bearer has your Springfield and the 
big gun. Everything’s in the car.- Have you solids?” 

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THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


“Yes.” 

“Fm ready,” Mrs. Macomber said. 

“Must make him stop that racket,” Wilson said. “You get in front. 
The Memsahib can sit back here with me.” 

They climbed into the motor car and, in the gray first day- 
light, moved off up the river through the trees. Macomber opened 
the breech of his rifle and saw he had metal-cased bullets, shut the 
bolt and put the rifle on safety. He saw his hand was trembling. He 
felt in his pocket for more cartridges and moved his fingers over the 
cartridges in the loops of his tunic front. He turned back to where 
Wilson sat in the rear seat of the doorless, box-bodied motor car be- 
side his wife, them both grinning with excitement, and Wilson leaned 
forward and whispered, 

“See the birds dropping. Means the old boy has left his kill.” 

On the far bank of the stream Macomber could see, above the trees, 
vultures circling and plummeting down. 

“Chances are he’ll come to drink along here,” Wilson whispered. 
“Before he goes to lay up. Keep an eye out.” 

They were driving slowly along the high bank of the stream which 
here cut deeply to its boulder-filled bed, and they wound in and out 
through big trees as they drove. Macomber was watching the oppo- 
site bank when he felt Wilson take hold of his arm. The car stopped. 

“There he is,” he heard the whisper. “Ahead and to the right. Get 
out and take him. He’s a marvellous lion.” 

Macomber saw the lion now. He was standing almost broadside, 
his great head up and turned toward them. The early morning breeze 
that blew toward them was just stirring his dark mane, and the lion 
looked huge, silhouetted on the rise of bank in the gray morning light, 
his shoulders heavy, his barrel of a body bulking smoothly. 

“How far is he?” asked Macomber, raising his rifle, 

“About seventy-five. Get out and take him.” 

“Why not shoot from where I am?” 

“You don’t shoot them from cars,” he heard Wilson saying in his 
ear. “Get out. He’s not going to stay there all day.” 

Macomber stepped out of the curved opening at the side of 
the front seat, onto the step and down onto the ground. The lion still 
stood looking majestically and coolly toward this object that his eyes 


289 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


only showed in silhouette, bulking like some super-rhino. There was 
no man smell carried toward him and he watched the object, moving 
his great head a little from side to side. Then watching the object, not 
afraid, but hesitating before going down the bank to drink with such 
a thing opposite him, he saw a man figure detach itself from it and he 
turned his heavy head and swung away toward the cover of the trees 
as he heard a cracking crash and felt the slam of a .30-06 220-grain 
solid bullet that bit his flank and ripped in sudden hot scalding nausea 
through his stomach. He trotted, heavy, big-footed, swinging 
wounded full-bellied, through the trees toward the tall grass and 
cover, and the crash came again to go past him ripping the air apart. 
Then it crashed again and he felt the blow as it hit his lower ribs and 
ripped on through, blood sudden hot and frothy in his mouth, and 
he galloped toward the high grass where he could crouch and not be 
seen and make them bring the crashing thing close enough so he could 
make a rush and get the man that held it. 

Macomber had not thought how the lion felt as he got out of the 
car. He only knew his hands were shaking and as he walked away 
from the car it was almost impossible for him to make his legs move. 
They were stiff in the thighs, but he could feel the muscles fluttering. 
He raised the rifle, sighted on the junction of the lion’s head and 
shoulders and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened though he pulled 
until he thought his finger would break. Then he knew he had the 
safety on and as he lowered the rifle to move the safety over he 
moved another frozen pace forward, and the lion seeing his silhouette 
now clear of the silhouette of the car, turned and started off at a trot, 
and, as Macomber fired, he heard a whunk that meant that the bullet 
was home; but the lion kept on going. Macomber shot again and 
every one saw the bullet throw a spout of dirt beyond the trotting 
lion. He shot again, remembering to lower his aim, and they aU heard 
the bullet hit, and the lion went into a gallop and was in the tali grass 
before he had the bolt pushed forward. 

Macomber stood there feeling sick at his stomach, his hands that 
held the Springfield still cocked, shaking, and his wife and Robert 
Wilson were standing by him. Beside him too were the two gun-bear- 
ers chattering in Wakamba. 

“I hit him,” Macomber said. “I hit him twice.” 


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THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 

“You gut-shot him and you hit him somewhere forward,” Wilson 
said without enthusiasm. The gun-bearers looked very grave. They 
were silent now. 

“You may have killed him,” Wilson went on. “We’ll have to wait a 
while before we go in to find out.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Let him get sick before we follow him up.” 

“Oh,” said Macomber. 

“He’s a hell of a fine lion,” Wilson said cheerfully. “He’s gotten 
into a bad place though.” 

“Why is it bad?” 

“Can’t see him until you’re on him.” 

“Oh,” said Macomber. 

“Come on,” said Wilson. “The Memsahib can stay here in the car. 
We’ll go to have a look at the blood spoor.” 

“Stay here, Margot,” Macomber said to his wife. His mouth was 
very dry and it was hard for him to talk. 

“Why?” she asked. 

“Wilson says to.” 

“We’re going to have a look,” Wilson said. “You stay here. You can 
see even better from here.” 

“All right.” 

Wilson spoke in Swahili to the driver. He nodded and said, “Yes, 
Bwana.” 

Then they went down the steep bank and across the stream, climb- 
ing over and around the boulders and up the other bank, pulling up 
by some projecting roots, and along it until they found where the lion 
had been trotting when Macomber first shot. There was dark blood 
on the short grass that the gun-bearers pointed out with grass stems, 
and that ran away behind the river bank trees. 

“What do we do?” asked Macomber. 

“Not much choice,” said Wilson. “We can’t bring the car over. 
Bank’s too steep. We’ll let him stiffen up a bit and then you and I’ll go 
in and have a look for him.” 

“Can’t we set the grass on fire?” Macomber asked. 

“Too green.” 

“Can’t we send beaters?” 


291 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


Wilson looked at him appraisingly. “Of course we can,” he said. 
“But it’s just a touch murderous. You see we know the lion’s 
wounded. You can drive an unwounded lion — he’ll move on ahead 
of a noise — ^but a wounded lion’s going to charge. You can’t see him 
until you’re right on him. He’ll make himself perfectly flat in cover 
you wouldn’t think would hide a hare. You can’t very well send boys 
in there to that sort of a show. Somebody bound to get mauled.” 

“What about the gun-bearers?” 

“Oh, they’ll go with us. It’s their shaurL You see, they signed on for 
it. They don’t look too happy though, do they?” 

‘ “I don’t want to go in there,” said Macomber. It was out before he 
knew he’d said it. 

“Neither do I,” said Wilson very cheerily. “Really no choice 
though.” Then, as an afterthought, he glanced at Macomber and saw 
suddenly how he was trembling and the pitiful look on his face. 

“You don’t have to go in, of course,” he said. “That’s what I’m 
hired for, you know. That’s why I’m so expensive.” 

“You mean you’d go in by yourself? Why not leave him there?” 

Robert Wilson, whose entire occupation had been with the Hon and 
the problem he presented, and who had not been thinking about 
Macomber except to note that he was rather windy, suddenly felt as 
though he had opened the wrong door in a hotel and seen something 
shameful. 

“What do you mean?” 

“Why not just leave him?” 

“You mean pretend to ourselves he hasn’t been hit?” 

“No. Just drop it.” 

“It isn’t done.” 

“Why not?” 

“For one thing, he’s certain to be suffering. For another, some one 
else might run onto him.” 

“I see.” 

“But you don’t have to have anything to do with it.” 

“I’d like to,” Macomber said. “I’m just scared, you know.” 

“Fil go ahead when we go in,” Wilson said, “with Kongoni tracking. 
You keep behind me and a Httle to one side: Chances are we’ll hear 
him growl. If we see him we’ll both shoot. Don’t worry about any- 

292 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 

thing, ril keep you backed up. As a matter of fact, you know, per- 
haps you’d better not go. It might be much better. Why don’t you go 
over and join the Memsahib while I just get it over with?” 

“No, I want to go.” 

“All right,” said Wilson. “But don’t go in if you don’t want to. 
This is my shauri now, you know.” 

“I want to go,” said Macomber. 

They sat under a tree and smoked. 

“Want to go back and speak to the Memsahib while we’re waiting?” 
Wilson asked. 

“No.” 

“I’ll just step back and tell her to be patient.” 

“Good,” said Macomber. He sat there, sweating under his arms, his 
mouth dry, his stomach hollow feeling, wanting to find courage to 
tell Wilson to go on and finish off the lion without him. He could 
not know that Wilson was furious because he had not noticed the state 
he was in earlier and sent him back to his wife. While he sat there Wil- 
son came up. “I have your big gun,” he said. “Take it. We’ve given 
him time, I think. Come on.” 

Macomber took the big gun and Wilson said: 

“Keep behind me and about five yards to the right and do exactly 
as I tell you.” Then he spoke in Swahili to the two gun-bearers who 
looked the picture of gloom. 

“Let’s go,” he said. 

“Could I have a drink of water?” Macomber asked. Wilson spoke 
to the older gun-bearer, who wore a canteen on his belt, and the man 
unbuckled it, unscrewed the top and handed it to Macomber, who 
took it noticing how heavy it seemed and how hairy and shoddy the 
felt covering was in his hand. He raised it to drink and looked ahead 
at the high grass with the flat-topped trees behind it. A breeze was 
blowing toward them and the grass rippled gently in the wind. He 
looked at the gun-bearer and he could see the gun-bearer was suffer- 
ing too with fear. 

Thirty-five yards into the grass the big lion lay flattened out along 
the ground. His ears were back and his only movement was a slight 
twitching up and down of his long, black-tufted tail He had turned 
at bay as soon as he had reached this cover and he was sick with the 

293 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


wound through his full belly, and weakening with the wound through 
his lungs that brought a thin foamy red to his mouth each time he 
breathed. His flanks were wet and hot and flies were on the little 
openings the solid bullets had made in his tawny hide, and his big 
yellow eyes, narrowed with hate, looked straight ahead, only blink- 
ing when the pain came as he breathed, and his claws dug in the soft 
baked earth. All of him, pain, sickness, hatred and all of his remain- 
ing strength, was tightening into an absolute concentration for a rush. 
He could hear the men talking and he waited, gathering all of himself 
into this preparation for a charge as soon as the men would come into 
the grass. As he heard their voices his tail stiffened to twitch up and 
down, and, as they came into the edge of the grass, he made a cough- 
ing grunt and charged. 

Kongoni, the old gun-bearer, in the lead watching the blood spoor, 
Wilson watching the grass for any movement, his big gun ready, the 
second gun-bearer looking ahead and listening, Macomber close to 
Wilson, his rifle cocked, they had just moved into the grass when 
Macomber heard the blood-choked coughing grunt, and saw the 
swishing rush in the grass. The next thing he knew he was running; 
running wildly, in panic in the open, running toward the stream. 

He heard the ca-fa-'wong! of Wilson’s big rifle, and again in a sec- 
ond crashing carawo72g/ and turning saw the lion, horrible-looking 
now, with half his head seeming to be gone, crawling toward Wilson 
in the edge of the tall grass while the red-faced man worked the bolt 
on the short ugly rifle and aimed carefully as another blasting cam- 
wong! came from the muzzle, and the crawling, heavy, yellow bulk of 
the lion stiffened and the huge, mutilated head slid forward and 
Macomber, standing by himself in the clearing where he had run, 
holding a loaded rifle, while two black men and a white man looked 
back at him in contempt, knew the lion was dead. He came toward 
Wilson, Ms tallness all seeming a naked reproach, and Wilson looked at 
Mm and said: 

“Want to take pictures.^*” 

“No,” he said. 

That was all any one had said until they reached the motor car. 
Then Wilson had said: 


294 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


“Hell of a fine lion. Boys will skin him out. We might as well stay 
here in the shade.” 

Macomber’s wife had not looked at him nor he at her and he had 
sat by her in the back seat with Wilson sitting in the front seat. Once 
he had reached over and taken his wife’s hand without looking at 
her and she had removed her hand froiti his. Looking across the 
stream to where the gun-bearers were skinning out the lion he could 
see that she had been able to see the whole thing. While they sat 
there his wife had reached forward and put her hand on Wilson’s 
shoulder. He turned and she had leaned forward over the low seat 
and kissed him on the mouth. 

“Oh, I say,” said Wilson, going redder than his natural baked color. 

“Mr. Robert Wilson,” she said. “The beautiful red-faced Mr. Rob- 
ert Wilson.” 

Then she sat down beside Macomber again and looked away across 
the stream to where the lion lay, with uplifted, white-muscled, ten- 
don-marked naked forearms, and white bloating belly, as the black 
men fleshed away the skin. Finally the gun-bearers brought the skin 
over, wet and heavy, and climbed in behind with it, rolling it up be- 
fore they got in, and the motor car started. No one had said anything 
more until they were back in camp. 

That was the story of the lion. Macomber did not know how the 
lion had felt before he started his rush, nor during it when the unbe- 
lievable smash of the .505 with a muzzle velocity of two tons had hit 
him in the mouth, nor what kept him coming after that, when the 
second ripping crash had smashed his hind quarters and he had come 
crawling on toward the crashing, blasting thing that had destroyed 
him. Wilson knew something about it and only expressed it by saying, 
“Damned fine lion,” but Macomber did not know how Wilson felt 
about things either. He did not know how his wife felt except that 
she was through with him. 

His wife had been through with him before but it never lasted. He 
was very wealthy, and would be much wealthier, and he knew she 
would not leave him ever now. That was one of the few things that 
he really knew. He knew about that, about motor cycles — ^that was 
earliest — about motor cars, about duck-shooting, about fishing, trout. 


295 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


salmon and big-sea, about sex in books, many books, too many books, 
about all court games, about dogs, not much about horses, about 
hanging on to his money, about most of the other things his world 
dealt in, and about his wife not leaving him. His wife had been a great 
beauty and she was still a great beauty in Africa, but she was not a 
great enough beauty any more at home to be able to leave him and 
better herself and she knew it and he knew it. She had missed the 
chance to leave him and he knew it. If he had been better with women 
she would probably have started to worry about him getting another 
new, beautiful wife; but she knew too much about him to worry 
about him either. Also, he had always had a great tolerance which 
seemed the nicest thing about him if it were not the most sinister. 

All in all they were known as a comparatively happily married 
couple, one of those whose disruption is often rumored but never oc- 
curs, and as the society columnist put it, they were adding more than 
a spice of adventure to their much envied and ever-enduring Romance 
by a Safari in what was known as Darkest Africa until the Martin 
Johnsons lighted it on so many silver screens where they were pursu- 
ing Old Snnha the lion, the buffalo, Teinbo the elephant and as well 
collecting specimens for the Museum of Natural History. This same 
columnist had reported them on the verge at least three times in the 
past and they had been. But they always made it up. They had a 
sound basis of union. Margot was too beautiful for Macomber to di- 
vorce her and Macomber had too much money for Margot ever to 
leave him. 

It was now about three o’clock in the morning and Francis Macom- 
ber, who had been asleep a little while after he had stopped thinking 
about the lion, wakened and then slept again, woke suddenly, fright- 
ened in a dream of the bloody-headed lion standing over him, and 
listening while his heart pounded, he realized that his wife was not in 
the other cot in the tent. He lay awake with that knowledge for two 
hours. 

At the end of that time his wife came into the tent, lifted her 
mosquito bar and crawled cozily into bed. 

“Where have you been?” Macomber asked in the darkness. 

“Hello,” she said. “Are you awake?” 

“Where have you been?” 

296 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 

“I just went out to get a breath of air.” 

“You did, like hell.” 

“What do you want me to say, darling?” 

“Where have you been?” 

“Out to get a breath of air.” 

“That’s a new name for it. You are a bitch.” 

“Weil, you’re a coward.” 

“Ail right,” he said. “What of it?” 

“Nothing as far as I’m concerned. But please let’s not talk, darling, 
because I’m very sleepy.” 

“You think that I’ll take anything.” 

“I know you will, sweet.” 

“Well, I won’t.” 

“Please, darling, let’s not talk. I’m so very sleepy.” 

“There wasn’t going to be any of that. You promised there 
wouldn’t be.” 

“Well, there is now,” she said sweetly. 

“You said if we made this trip that there would be none of that. 
You promised.” 

“Yes, darling. That’s the way I meant it to be. But the trip was 
spoiled yesterday. We don’t have to talk about it, do we?” 

“You don’t wait long when you have an advantage, do you?” 

“Please let’s not talk. I’m so sleepy, darling.” 

“I’m going to talk.” 

“Don’t mind me then, because I’m going to sleep.” And she did. 

At breakfast they were ail three at the table before daylight and 
Francis Macomber found that, of all the many men that he had hated, 
he hated Robert Wilson the most. 

“Sleep well?” Wilson asked in his throaty voice, filling a pipe. 

“Did you?” 

“Topping,” the white hunter told him. 

You bastard, thought Macomber, you insolent bastard. 

So she woke him w’^hen she came in, Wilson thought, looking at 
them both with his flat, cold eyes. Well, why doesn’t he keep his wife 
where she belongs? What does he think I am, a bloody piaster saint? 
Let him keep her where she belongs. It’s his own fault. 


297 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 

“Do you think we’ll find buffalo?” Margot asked, pushing away a 
dish of apricots. 

“Chance of it,” Wilson said and smiled at her. “Why don’t you stay 
in camp? ” 

“Not for anything,” she told him. 

“Why not order her to stay in camp?” Wilson said to Macomber. 

“You order her,” said Macomber coldly. 

“Let’s not have any ordering, nor,” turning to Macomber, “any 
silliness, Francis,” Margot said quite pleasantly. 

“Are you ready to start? ” Macomber asked. 

“Any time,” Wilson told him. “Do you want the Memsahib to go?” 

“Does it make any difference whether I do or not?” 

The hell with it, thought Robert Wilson. The utter complete hell 
with it. So this is what it’s going to be like. Well, this is what it’s go-r 
ing to be like, then. 

“Makes no difference,” he said. 

“You’re sure you wouldn’t like to stay in camp with her yourself 
and let me go out and hunt the buffalo? ” Macomber asked. 

“Can’t do that,” said Wilson. “Wouldn’t talk rot if I were you.” 

“I’m not talking rot. I’m disgusted.” 

“Bad word, disgusted.” 

“Francis, will you please try to speak sensibly?” his wife said. 

“I speak too damned sensibly,” Macomber said. “Did you ever eat 
such filthy food?” 

“Something wrong with the food?” asked Wilson quietly. 

“No more than with everything else.” 

“I’d pull yourself together, laddybuck,” Wilson said very quietly. 
“There’s a boy waits at table that understands a little English.” 

“The hell with him.” 

Wilson stood up and puffing on his pipe strolled away, speaking a 
few words in Swahili to one of the gun-bearers who was standing 
waiting for him. Macomber and his wife sat on at the table. He was 
staring at his coffee cup. 

“If you make a scene I’ll leave you, darling,” Margot said quietly. 

“No, you won’t.” 

“You can try it and see ” 

“You won’t leave me.” 


298 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


“No,” she said. “I won’t leave you and you’ll behave yourself.” 

“Behave myself? That’s a way to talk. Behave myself.” 

“Yes. Behave yourself.” 

“Why don’t you try behaving?” 

“Fve tried it so long. So very long.” 

“I hate that red-faced swine,” Macomber said. “I loathe the sight 
of him.” 

“He’s really very nice.” 

“Oh, shut upy^ Macomber almost shouted. Just then the car came 
up and stopped in front of the dining tent and the driver and the two 
gun-bearers got out. Wilson walked over and looked at the husband 
and wife sitting there at the table. 

“Going shooting?” he asked. 

“Yes,” said Macomber, standing up. “Yes.” 

“Better bring a woolly. It will be cool in the car,” Wilson said. 

“I’ll get my leather jacket,” Margot said. 

“The boy has it,” Wilson told her. He climbed into the front with 
the driver and Francis Macomber and his wife sat, not speaking, in 
the back seat. 

Hope the silly beggar doesn’t take a notion to blow the back of my 
head off, Wilson thought to himself. Women are a nuisance on safari. 

The car was grinding down to cross the river at a pebbly ford in 
the gray daylight and then climbed, angling up the steep bank, where 
Wilson had ordered a way shovelled out the day before so they could 
reach the parklike wooded rolling country on the far side. 

It was a good morning, Wilson thought. There was a heavy dew 
and as the wheels went through the grass and low bushes he could 
smell the odor of the crushed fronds. It was an odor like verbena and 
he liked this early morning smell of the dew, the crushed bracken and 
the look of the tree trunks showing black through the early morning 
mist, as the car made its way through the untracked, parklike coun- 
try. He had put the two in the back seat out of his mind now and 
was thinking about buffalo. The buffalo that he was after stayed in 
the daytime in a thick swamp where it was impossible to get a shot, 
but in the night they fed out into an open stretch of country and if he 
could come between them and their swamp with the car, Macomber 
would have a good chance at them in the open. He did not want to 


299 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


hunt buff with Macomber in thick cover. He did not want to hunt 
buff or anything else with Macomber at all, but he was a profes- 
sional hunter and he had hunted with some rare ones in his time. If 
they got buff today there would only be rhino to come and the 
poor man would have gone through his dangerous game and things 
might pick up. He’d have nothing more to do with the woman and 
Macomber would get over that too. He must have gone through 
plenty of that before by the look of things. Poor beggar. He must 
have a way of getting over it. Well, it was the poor sod’s own bloody 
fault. 

He, Robert Wilson, carried a double size cot on safari to accom- 
modate any windfalls he might receive. He had hunted for a certain 
clientele, the international, fast, sporting set, where the women did 
not feel they were getting their money’s worth unless they had 
shared that cot with the white hunter. He despised them when he 
was away from them although he liked some of them well enough at 
the time, but he made his living by them; and their standards were his 
standards as long as they were hiring him. 

They were his standards in all except the shooting. He had his own 
standards about the killing and they could live up to them or get 
some one else to hunt them. He knew, too, that they all respected 
him for this. This Macomber was an odd one though. Damned if he 
wasn’t. Now the wife. Weil, the wife. Yes, the wife. Hm, the wife. 
Well he’d dropped ail that. He looked around at them. Macomber sat 
grim and furious. Margot smiled at him. She looked younger today, 
more innocent and fresher and not so professionally beautiful. What’s 
in her heart God knows, Wilson thought. She hadn’t talked much 
last night. At that it was a pleasure to see her. 

The motor car climbed up a slight rise and went on through the 
trees and then out into a grassy prairie-like opening and kept in the 
shelter of the trees along the edge, the driver going slowly and Wilson 
looking carefully out across the prairie and all along its far side. He 
stopped the car and studied the opening with his field glasses. Then 
he motioned to the driver to go on and the car moved slowly along, 
the driver avoiding wart-hog holes and driving around the mud cas- 
tles ants had built. Then, looking across the opening, Wilson suddenly 
turned and said, 


300 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


“By God, there they are!” 

And looking where he pointed, while the car jumped forward and 
Wilson spoke in rapid Swahili to the driver, Macomber saw three 
huge, black animals looking almost cylindrical in their long heaviness, 
like big black tank cars, moving at a gallop across the far edge of the 
open prairie. They moved at a stiff-necked, stiff -bodied gallop and he 
could see the upswept wide black horns on their heads as they gal- 
loped heads out; the heads not moving. 

“They’re three old bulls,” Wilson said. “Well cut them off before 
they get to the swamp.” 

The car was going a wild forty-five miles an hour across the open 
and as Macomber watched, the buffalo got bigger and bigger until 
he could see the gray, hairless, scabby look of one huge bull and how 
his neck was a part of his shoulders and the shiny black of his horns 
as he galloped a little behind the others that were strung out in that 
steady plunging gait; and then, the car swaying as though it had just 
jumped a road, they drew up close and he could see the plunging 
hugeness of the bull, and the dust in his sparsely haired hide, the wide 
boss of horn and his outstretched, wide-nostrilled muzzle, and he was 
raising his rifle when Wilson shouted, “Not from the car, you fool!” 
and he had no fear, only hatred of Wilson, while the brakes clamped 
on and the car skidded, plowing sideways to an almost stop and Wil- 
son was out on one side and he on the other, stumbling as his feet hit 
the still speeding-by of the earth, and then he was shooting at the bull 
as he moved away, hearing the bullets whunk into him, emptying his 
rifie at him as he moved steadily away, finally remembering to get 
his shots forward into the shoulder, and as he fumbled to re-load, 
he saw the bull was down. Down on his knees, his big head tossing, 
and seeing the other two still galloping he shot at the leader and hit 
him. He shot again and missed and he heard the carawonging roar 
as Wilson shot and saw the leading bull slide forward onto his nose. 

“Get that other,” Wilson said. “Now you’re shooting!” 

But the other bull was moving steadily at the same gallop and he 
missed, throwing a spout of dirt, and Wilson missed and the dust rose 
in a cloud and Wilson shouted, “Come on. He’s too far!” and grabbed 
his arm and they were in the car again, Macomber and Wilson hang- 
ing on the sides and rocketing swayingly over the uneven ground, 

301 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


drawing np on the steady^ plunging, heavy-necked, straight-moving 
gallop of the bull. 

They were behind him and Macomber was filling his rifle, dropping 
shells onto the ground, jamming it, clearing the jam, then they were 
almost up with the bull when Wilson yelled “Stop,’’ and the car 
skidded so that it almost swung over and Macomber fell forward 
onto his feet, slammed his bolt forward and fired as far forward as 
he could aim into the galloping, rounded black back, aimed and shot 
again, then again, then again, and the bullets, ail of them hitting, had 
no effect on the buffalo that he could see. Then Wilson shot, the roar 
deafening him, and he could see the bull stagger. Macomber shot 
again, aiming carefully, and down he came, onto his knees. 

“All right,” Wilson said. “Nice work. That’s the three.” 

Macomber felt a drunken elation. 

“How many times did you shoot?” he asked. 

“Just three,” Wilson said. “You killed the first bull. The biggest 
one. I helped you finish the other two. Afraid they might have got 
into cover. You had them killed. I was just mopping up a little. You 
shot damn well.” 

“Let’s go to the car,” said Macomber. “I want a drink.” 

“Got to finish off that buff first,” Wilson told him. The buffalo 
was on his knees and he jerked his head furiously and bellowed in 
pig-eyed, roaring rage as they came toward him. 

“Watch he doesn’t get up,” Wilson said. Then, “Get a little broad- 
side and take him in the neck just behind the ear.” 

Macomber aimed carefully at the center of the huge, jerking, rage- 
driven neck and shot. At the shot the head dropped forward. 

“That does it,” said Wilson. “Got the spine. They’re a hell of a 
looking thing, aren’t they?” 

“Let’s get the drink,” said Macomber. In his life he had never felt 
so good. 

In the car Macomber’s wife sat very white faced. “You were 
marvellous, darling,” she said to Macomber. “What a ride,” 

“Was it rough?” Wilson asked. 

“It was frightful. I’ve never been more frightened in my life.” 

“Let’s all have a drink,” Macomber said. 


302 



the short happy life of FRANCIS MACOMBER 


“By all means,” said Wilson. “Give it to the Memsahib.” She drank 
the neat whisky from the flask and shuddered a little when she swal- 
lowed. She handed the flask to Macomber who handed it to Wilson. 

“It was frightfully exciting,” she said. “It’s given me a dreadful 
headache. I didn’t know you were allowed to shoot them from cars 
though.” 

“No one shot from cars,” said Wilson coldly. 

“I mean chase them from cars.” 

“Wouldn’t ordinarily,” Wilson said. “Seemed sporting enough to 
me though while we were doing it. Taking more chance driving that 
way across the plain full of holes and one thing and another than 
hunting on foot. Buffalo could have charged us each time we shot if 
he liked. Gave him every chance. Wouldn’t mention it to any one 
though. It’s illegal if that’s what you mean.” 

“It seemed very unfair to me,” Margot said, “chasing those big 
helpless things in a motor car,” 

“Did it?” said Wilson. 

“What would happen if they heard about it in Nairobi?” 

“I’d lose my licence for one thing. Other unpleasantnesses,” Wilson 
said, taking a drink from the flask. “I’d be out of business.” 

“Really?” 

“Yes, really.” 

“Well,” said Macomber, and he smiled for the first time all day, 
“Now she has something on you.” 

“You have such a pretty way of putting things, Francis,” Margot 
Macomber said. Wilson looked at them both. If a four-letter man 
marries a five-letter woman, he was thinking, what number of letters 
would their children be? What he said was, “We lost a gun-bearer. 
Did you notice it?” 

“My God, no,” Macomber said. 

“Here he comes,” Wilson said. “He’s all right. He must have fallen 
off when we left the first bull.” 

Approaching them was the middle-aged gun-bearer, limping along 
in his knitted cap, khaki tunic, shorts and rubber sandals, gloomy- 
faced and disgusted looking. As he came up he called out to Wilson 
in Swahili and they all saw the change in the white hunter’s face. 


303 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


“What does he say?” asked Margot. 

“He says the first bull got up and went into the bush/’ Wilson said 
with no expression in his voice. 

“Oh,” said Macomber blankly. 

“Then it’s going to be just like the lion,” said Margot, full of antici- 
pation. 

“It’s not going to be a damned bit like the lion,” Wilson told her. 
“Did you want another drink, Macomber?” 

“Thanks, yes,” Macomber said. He expected the feeling he had had 
about the lion to come back but it did not. For the first time in his life 
he really felt wholly without fear. Instead of fear he had a feeling of 
definite elation. 

“We’ll go and have a look at the second bull,” Wilson said. “I’ll tell 
the driver to put the car in the shade.” 

“What are you going to do?” asked Margaret Macomber. 

“Take a look at the buff,” Wilson said. 

“I’ll come.” 

“Come along.” 

The three of them walked over to where the second buffalo bulked 
blackly in the open, head forward on the grass, the massive horns 
swung wide. 

“He’s a very good head,” Wilson said. “That’s close to a fifty-inch 
spread.” 

Macomber was looking at him with delight. 

“He’s hateful looking,” said Margot. “Can’t we go into the shade?” 

“Of course,” Wilson said. “Look,” he said to Macomber, and 
pointed. “See that patch of bush?” 

“Yes.” 

“That’s where the first bull went in. The gun-bearer said when he 
fell off the bull 'was down. He was watching us helling along and the 
other two buff galloping. When he looked up there was the bull up 
and looking at him. Gun-bearer ran like hell and the bull went off 
slowly into that bush.” 

“Can we go in after him now?” asked Macomber eagerly. ‘ 

Wilson looked at him appraisingly. Damned if this isn’t a strange 
one, he thought* Yesterday he’s scared sick and today he’s a ruddy 
fire eater. 


304 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 

'‘No, we’ll give him a while.” 

“Let’s please go into the shade,” Margot said. Her face was white 
and she looked ill. 

They made their way to the car' where it stood under a single, 
wide-spreading tree and all climbed in 

“Chances are he’s dead in there ” Wilson remarked. “After a little 
we’ll have a look.” 

Macomber felt a wild unreasonable happiness that he had never 
known before. 

“By God, that was a chase,” he said. “I’ve never felt any such feel- 
ing Wasn’t it marvellous, Margot?” 

“I hated it.” 

“Why?” 

“I hated it.” she said bitterly. “I loathed it.” 

“You know I don’t think I’d ever be afraid of anything again,” Ma- 
comber said to Wilson. “Something happened in me after we first 
saw the buff and started after him. Like a dam bursting. It was pure 
excitement.” 

“Cleans out your liver,” said Wilson. “Damn funny things happen 
to people.’" 

Macomber’s face was shining “You know something did happen 
to me he said. “I feel absolutely different.” 

Hi5 wife said nothing and eyed him strangely. She was sitting far 
back in the seat and Macomber was sitting forward talking to Wilson 
who turned sideways talking over the back of the front seat. 

“You know I’d like to try another lion,” Macomber said. “I’m 
really not afraid of them now. After all, what can they do to you?” 

“That’s it ” said Wilson. “Worst one can do is kill you. How does it 
go? Shakespeare. Damned good. See if I can remember. Oh, damned 
good. Used tp quote it to myself at one time. Let’s see. 'By my troth, 
I care not; a man can die but once; we owe God a death and let it 
go which way it will he that dies this year is quit for the next.’ 
Damned fine, eh?” 

He was very embarrassed, having brought out this thing he had 
lived by, but he had seen men come of age before and it always 
moved him. It was not a matter of their twenty-first birthday. 

It had taken a strange chance of hunting, a sudden precipitation 

305 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


into action without opportunity for worrying beforehand, to bring 
this about with Macomber, but regardless of how it had happened 
it had most certainly happened. Look at the beggar now, Wilson 
thought. It’s that some of them stay little boys so long, Wilson 
thought. Sometimes all their lives. Their figures stay boyish when 
they’re fifty. The great American boy-men. Damned strange people. 
But he liked this Macomber now. Damned strange fellow. Probably 
meant the end of cuckoldry too. Well, that would be a damned good 
thing. Damned good thing. Beggar had probably been afraid all his 
life. Don’t know what started it. But over now. Hadn’t had time to be 
afraid with the buff. That and being angry too. Motor car too. Motor 
cars made it familiar. Be a damn fire eater now. He’d seen it in the 
war work the same way. More of a change than any loss of virginity. 
Fear gone like an operation. Something else grew in its place. Main 
thing a man had. Made him into a man. Women knew it too. No 
bloody fear. 

From the far corner of the seat Margaret Macomber looked at the 
two of them. There was no change in Wilson. She saw Wilson as she 
had seen him the day before when she had first realized what his great 
talent was. But she saw the change in Francis Macomber now. 

“Do you have that feeling of happiness about what’s going to hap- 
pen?” Macomber asked, still exploring his new wealth. 

“You’re not supposed to mention it,” Wilson said, looking in the 
other’s face. “Much more fashionable to say you’re scared. Mind you, 
you’ll be scared too, plenty of times.” 

“But you have a feeling of happiness about action to come?” 

“Yes,” said Wilson. “There’s that. Doesn’t do to talk too much about 
all this. Talk the whole thing away. No pleasure in anything if you 
mouth it up too much.” 

“You’re both talking rot,” said Margot. “Just because you’ve chased 
some helpless animals in a motor car you talk like heroes.” 

“Sorry,” said Wilson. “I have been gassing too much.” She’s wor- 
ried about it already, he thought. 

“If you don’t know what we’re talking about why not keep out of 
it?” Macomber asked his wife. 

“You’ve gotten awfully brave, awfully suddenly,” his wife said con- 

306 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


temptuously, but her contempt was not secure. She was very afraid 
of something. 

Macomber laughed, a very natural hearty laugh. “You know I 
have^^ he said. “I really have.” 

“Isn’t it sort of late?” Margot said bitterly. Because she had done 
the best she could for many years back and the way they were to- 
gether now was no one person’s fault. 

“Not for me,” said Macomber. 

Margot said nothing but sat back in the corner of the seat. 

“Do you think we’ve given him time enough?” Macomber asked 
Wilson cheerfully. 

“We might have a look,” Wilson said. “Have you any solids left?” 

“The gun-bearer has some.” 

Wilson called in Swahili and the older gun-bearer, who was skin- 
ning out one of the heads, straightened up, pulled a box of solids out 
of his pocket and brought them over to Macomber, who filled his 
magazine and put the remaining shells in his pocket. 

“You might as well shoot the Springfield,” Wilson said. “You’re 
used to it. We’ll leave the Mannlicher in the car with the Memsahib. 
Your gun-bearer can carry your heavy gun. I’ve this damned cannon. 
Now let me tell you about them.” He had saved this until the last 
because he did not want to worry Macomber. “When a buff comes he 
comes with his head high and thrust straight out. The boss of the 
horns covers any sort of a brain shot. The only shot is straight into 
the nose. The only other shot is into his chest or, if you’re to one side, 
into the neck or the shoulders. After they’ve been hit once they 
take a hell of a lot of killing. Don’t try anything fancy. Take the eas- 
iest shot there is. They’ve finished skinning out that head now. Should 
we get started?” 

He called to the gun-bearers, who came up wiping their hands, and 
the older one got into the back. 

“I’ll only take Kongoni,” Wilson said. “The other can watch to keep 
the birds away.” 

As the car moved slowly across the open space toward the island 
of brushy trees that ran in a tongue of foliage along a dry water 
course that cut the open swale, Macomber felt his heart pounding and 
his mouth was dry again, but it was excitement, not fear. 


307 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


“Here’s where he went in,” Wilson said. Then to the gun-bearer in 
Swahili, “Take the blood spoor.” 

The car was parallel to the patch of bush. Macomber, Wilson and 
the gun-bearer got down. Macomber, looking back, saw his wife, 
with the rifle by her side, looking at him. He waved to her and she 
did not wave back. 

The brush was very thick ahead and the ground was dry. The mid- 
dle-aged gun-bearer was sweating heavily and Wilson had his hat 
down over his eyes and his red neck showed just ahead of Macom- 
ber. Suddenly the gun-bearer said something in Swahili to Wilson and 
ran forward. 

“He’s dead in there,” Wilson said. “Good work,” and he turned 
to grip Macomber’s hand and as they shook hands, grinning at each 
other, the gun-bearer shouted wildly and they saw him coming out of 
the bush sideways, fast as a crab, and the bull coming, nose out, 
mouth tight closed, blood dripping, massive head straight out, coming 
in a charge, his little pig eyes bloodshot as he looked at them. Wilson, 
who was ahead was kneeling shooting, and Macomber, as he fired, 
unhearing his shot in the roaring of Wilson’s gun, saw fragments like 
slate burst from the huge boss of the horns, and the head jerked, he 
shot again at the wide nostrils and saw the horns jolt again and frag- 
ments fly, and he did not see Wilson now and, aiming carefully, shot 
again with the buflalo’s huge bulk almost on him and his rifle almost 
level with the on-coming head, nose out, and he could see the little 
wicked eyes and the head started to lower and he felt a sudden white- 
hot, blinding flash explode inside his head and that was all he ever 
felt. 

Wilson had ducked to one side to get in a shoulder shot. Macomber 
had stood solid and shot for the nose, shooting a touch high each time 
and hitting the heavy horns, splintering and chipping them like hit- 
ting a slate roof, and Mrs. Macomber, in the car, had shot at the 
buffalo with the 6.5 Mannlicher as it seemed about to gore Macom- 
ber and had hit her husband about two inches up and a little to one 
side of the base of his skull. 

Francis Macomber lay now, face down, not two yards from where 
the buffalo lay on his side and Ms wife knelt over him with Wilson 
beside her* 


308 



the short happy life of FRANCIS MACOMBER 


“I wouldn’t turn him over,” Wilson said. 

The woman was crying hysterically. 

“Fd get back in the car,” Wilson said. “Where’s the rifle?” 

She shook her head, her face contorted. The gun-bearer picked 
up the rifle 

“Leave it as it is,” said Wilson. Then, “Go get Abdulla so that he 
may witness the manner of the accident.” 

He knelt down, took a handkerchief from his pocket, and spread 
it over Francis Macomber’s crew-cropped head where it lay. The 
blood sank into the dry, loose earth. 

Wilson stood up and saw the buffalo on his side, his legs out, his 
thinly-haired belly crawling with ticks. “Hell of a good bull,” his 
brain registered automatically. “A good fifty inches, or better. Bet- 
ter.” He called to the driver and told him to spread a blanket over the 
body and stay by it. Then he walked over to the motor car where the 
woman sat crying in the corner. 

“That was a pretty thing to do,” he said in a toneless voice. “He 
'Would have left you too.” 

“Stop it,” she said. 

“Of course it’s an accident,” he said. “I know that.” 

“Stop it,” she said. 

“Don’t worry,” he said. “There will be a certain amount of un- 
pleasantness but I will have some photographs taken that will be very 
useful at the inquest. There’s the testimony of the gun-bearers and 
the driver too. You’re perfectly all right.” 

“Stop it,” she said. 

“There’s a hell of a lot to be done,” he said. “And Fli have to send 
a truck off to the lake to wireless for a plane to take the three of us 
into Nairobi. Why didn’t you poison him? That’s what they do in 
England.” 

“Stop it. Stop it. Stop it,” the woman cried. 

Wilson looked at her with his flat blue eyes. 

“Fm through now,” he said. “I was a little angry. Fd begun to like 
your husband.” 

“Oh, please stop it,” she said. “Please, please stop it.” 

“That’s better,” Wilson said. “Please is much better. Now Fll stop.” 


309 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


ERNEST HEMINGWAY was bom in Oak Park, Iliinois, on 
July 21, 1899. His father was a physician with a taste for outdoor 
sports, such as hunting and fishing, which he passed on to his son, and 
which, deepened and become very complex, developed into one of the 
decisive passions of his son’s life. Hemingway was graduated from Oak 
Park high school in 1917 and shortly afterward became a reporter for 
the Kansas City Star, Within a few months he left the Star to get into 
World War I, first as a member of an ambulance unit in the French 
army, and later as an infantryman in the Italian. He was wounded in 
the latter service and decorated for heroism. After the Armistice he 
returned to America, but in 1921 the Toronto Star sent him as a cor- 
respondent to cover the war in the Near East. After reporting the war 
and the peace conference at Lausanne in November, 1922, he went to 
Paris, where he was employed by the Hearst news service. There his 
literary life began. He became one of a brilliant group of expatriates, 
which included Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, both of whom in- 
fluenced him profoundly. His literary, as distinguished from reporto- 
rial, work began to appear in 1923 — ^first some poems in the January 
issue of Poetry and then a volume called Three Stories and Ten Poems, 
The next year 170 copies of a little book called in our time were 
printed, a forerunner of In Our Time^ a volume of short stories and 
the first of Hemingway’s books to be issued by a house not catering 
to readers of advanced, esoteric literature. The first two of these books 
were published in France, while the last appeared in the United States, 
in 1925. He attained sudden fame with the appearance in 1926 of The 
Sun Also Rises, a novel about the disillusioned, lost generation of 
World War I. Since 1928 Hemingway has lived principally in Florida 
and Cuba, with time out for hunting in Africa and for reporting the 
Spanish Civil War, the Japanese attack on China, and the Allied inva- 
sion of France in World War II. In this struggle he became practically 
an Allied guerrilla leader. He has been married four times; three 
unions ended in divorce. 

Hemingway probably enjoys the highCwSt reputation of ail American 
authors of his generation, though he has produced comparatively lit- 
tle. Before The Su?z Also Rises he had written a slight, satiric novel. 
The Torrents of Spring (1926). In 1927 a collection of his short stories 
called Me ?2 'without Women appeared. His most famous novel, A Fare- 
well to Arms (1929), is a disillusioning but very moving story of 
World War I, based partly upon Hemingway’s experiences in the 
Italian army. Then followed a book about bull-fighting, Death in the 
Afternoon (1932), whose importance critics have found it difficult to 
estimate. He published a volume of fine short stories, Winner Take 
Nothing, in 1933, but in 1935 lapsed into The Green Hills of Africa, 
which describes parts of a hunting trip. To Have and Have Not ( 1937) 

310 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


is a novel about a Florida rum-runner. In 1938 appeared The Fifth 
Column and the First Forty -Nine Stories, The title describes the con- 
tents. “The Fifth Column” is a play based on the author’s experiences 
in the Spanish Civil War; of the stories ail but a few had appeared in 
his earlier books. For Who7n the Bell Tolls (1940) is a novel about the 
Spanish Civil War. Across the River and into the Trees (1950) is a 
slight story of the last days of an American colonel in post-war Italy. 
The Old Man and the Sea (1952), a short but substantial novel, de- 
scribes with simplicity and dignity the struggle of a single old man to 
catch and bring to shore a huge marKn. This is a complete list of 
Hemingway’s major works. 

Both his interpretations of life and the style of his work are impres- 
sive. 

In certain respects his basic attitudes have altered as the years have 
passed, and in other respects they have not. In a very general way a 
change seems to have taken place in his notions of man as a social 
being, but not in those of man as an individual. 

Maxwell Geismar has pointed out the change. The characters of The 
Sun Also Rises simply have no social responsibilities. They are lac- 
erated individuals who have become individualists. Jake, the narrator, 
has been physically wounded — emasculated — in the war. Lady Brett 
Ashley, whom he pathetically loves, has been morally wounded: her 
lover has died of dysentery, she has married on the rebound, and now 
she is awaiting a divorce to marry a wastrel. In the meantime she takes 
such lovers as happen momentarily to* please her fancy. These two, 
like the other characters, believe in nothing except being good fellows, 
have no purposes beyond the moment, and cannot conceive that any 
can exist. They are lost. Society is only something which has made 
possible the war. Traditional social values have been completely ex- 
ploded. No one has any obligations to society, and it has little to offer 
the individual. Man, doomed to frustration and quick annihilation, has 
but a few moments in which to snatch personal gratification from 
sports, drink, and sex. A Farewell to Arn^s^ as Malcolm Cowley has 
said, is a kind of unintended but accurate explanation of how the world 
of The Sun Also Rises came into being. Its action takes place during 
the war. Lieutenant Henry, the central character, is an American who 
is serving as a volunteer in an Italian ambulance unit. He loses all faith 
in the war and in such abstractions as honor, loyalty, and sacrifice. He 
believes about tfie war only what he can experience with his senses 
or immediately infer — ^tdolent death, misery, stupidity, hypocrisy. 
Threatened with execution for being caught away from his unit at the 
rout of Caporetto, he loses the last vestige of his sense of responsibility 
to the Italians and flees with his mistress Catherine to Switzerland. 
Catherine herself is saved from being a Lady Brett Ashley only by her 

311 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


love for Henry. Neither Catherine nor Henry has any obligation to a 
society which has nothing to offer but deception and destruction. 
But in Tc? Have and Have Not a change appears. The hero, Henry 
Morgan, is again a wounded character. He fights against personal mis- 
fortune and economic depression to support his family, using all the 
weapons, fair and foul, at his disposal. In the end he is killed; but just 
before he dies he gasps out the lesson that his life has taught him: no 
man fighting alone has a chance. A man, it would seem, must unite 
with his fellows to achieve his own security. The individual man has 
a vaguely hinted purpose — ^to participate in the development of social 
forms within which man may be as free as possible from hunger and 
brutality. In For Whom the Bell Tolls — ^‘‘it tolls for thee” according 
to the quotation from John Donne prefixed to the book — this ideal 
finds clearer expression. Without hesitation, the central character, Rob- 
ert Jordan, gives his life to blow up a bridge for the forces fighting 
against fascism in Spain. Here is affirmation. The world of For Whom 
the Bell Tolls is very different from that of The Sun Also Rises. Not 
all moral anchors are now dragging. Life takes on significance and by 
that very fact becomes livable. 

But if in certain respects Hemingway’s insights have changed since 
the 1920’s, in others they have remained much the same. His is a tough, 
masculine world, which to many of his contemporaries certainly 
seems to correspond to the real world about them. The virtues of the 
sportsman, particularly the hunter, become the virtues of life. Hem- 
ingway admires physical strength, courage, aggressiveness. He is fasci- 
nated by violent death — ^by those who inflict it and by those who are 
victims. It is dramatic, final, and yet simple. It is something about 
which a man can write with truth. He admires action, and it seems 
likely that he despises contemplative thought and abstract theory. His 
concern with women seems mainly physical. These attitudes have been 
constant with him, and there is something a little immature about 
them. They are too obvious. A child can appreciate an act of physical 
strength; only an intelligent adult can hope to deal with a complicated 
ethical problem. Death does not have to be violent to be tragic or dra- 
matic. There are other virtues than those of the hunter. Satisfactory 
relations between the sexes rest upon much more than the physical at- 
tractiveness of the female or the masculine bravery of her mate. 

Yet at some point the critic who objects to Hemingway’s perpetual 
adolescence must begin to qualify his strictures. For in part the sim- 
plicity of his values is a result of his determination to write the truth. 
He must know that a thing is true before he says it is. But the things 
that people in general feel most certain about are their immediate sense 
experiences — ^what they see, feel, taste, hear. These are the things 

312 



THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER 


* which Hemingway deals with when he writes about hunting, murder, 
sex, and bull-fighting. He keeps his feet on the ground, though one 
occasionally wishes that he might find some other place to put them. 

In manner he is usually highly objective*; that is, he rarely intrudes 
into narrative his own opinions or expository explanation. He keeps to 
a minimum his discussion of the subjective states of his characters. 
They feel “good” or “bad.” He does not go so far as a Dashiell 
Hammett or a John Dos Passos and imply that the inner life of man is 
a void, but he usually leaves the complicated nature of that life to be 
inferred. 

Hemingway’s style is famous and has been widely imitated. His 
sentences are short and brusque; or, if they are long, they consist pre- 
dominantly of grammatical elements joined by and or but. It is a 
hard-boiled style, the style of a man who faces facts without fear or 
quibbling. It is well suited to the objectivity with which he presents 
his matter. His vocabulary is surprisingly simple; he does not seek the 
exact word but an approximate one, tends to use not specific terms, but 
general. His language is not that of the people, as anyone can tell who 
will take the trouble to listen to the speech in use around him, but it 
sounds as if it were. 

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is taken from The 
Fifth Column and the First Forty -Nine Stories. 

John K. M. McCaffery has assembled many of the best essays about 
Hemingway into a single volume, Ernest HemingiJDay: The Man and 
His Work (1950). A recent extensive study is Carlos Baker, Heming- 
way: The Writer as Artist (1952). The reader might also consult 
Joseph W. Beach, American Fiction, 1920-1940 (1941), pp. 69-119; 
Bernard De Voto, The Literary Fallacy (1944), pp. 104-108; and 
Claude-Edmonde Magny, uAge du roman americain (1948), pp. 
159-177. 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. This is the story of the making of a man — a Hemingway 
man, that is. Describe Macomber’s character as it was before his trans- 
formation. Do you think his inability to face the charging lion really 
represented a serious flaw in his character? Does Hemingway think it 
did? Why is Macomber transformed? Do you think that Hemingway 
adequately accotyits for his alteration? What changes take place in 
his psychology? Is his character over-simplified? Explain the title of 
the story. 

2. Characterize Mrs. Macomber. What have her previous rela- 
tions with Macomber been? Why does she taunt him after his flight? 

313 



ERNEST HEMINGWAY 


Why might Mrs. Macomber have wanted to kill her husband? Does « 
she deliberately kill him? Does Hemingway make the answer entirely 
clear? 

3. Notice Hemingway’s introductory description of Wilson. 
What features of it make you feel Hemingway’s approval of him? No- 
tice carefully the fluctuations of Wilson’s opinion of Macomber and 
explain each. Name the values by which Wilson lives. Have you any 
reason for thinking that these are approximately Hemingway’s own 
values? Do they seem to you satisfactory? or too simple? or too re- 
stricted in the area of human life which they cover? or too absolute? 
or in themselves, perhaps partially, false values? Does the story seem 
to you romantic? ^ Explain. 

4. Do any of the characters appear particularly talkative? What 
notions concerning Hemingway’s opinion of the relative values of 
talk and action does your answer suggest? Does Macomber or Wilson 
use the more sentence fragments in his speech? What effect do these 
fragments have upon your conception of the character of the user? 

Is Hemingway’s style in the narrative portions of the story distin- 
guished by an unusually large number of coordinating conjunctions? 

If so, what general effect do these connectives produce? 


314 




DELTA AUTUMN 

Soon now they would enter 
the Delta. The sensation was familiar to him. It had been renewed 
like this each last week in November for more than fifty years — ^the 
last hill, at the foot of which the rich unbroken alluvial flatness began 
as the sea began at the base of its cliffs, dissolving away beneath the 
unhurried November rain as the sea itself would dissolve away. 

At first they had come in wagons: the guns, the bedding, the dogs, 
the food, the whisky, the keen heart-lifting anticipation of hunting; 
the young men who could drive all night and all the following day 
in the cold rain and pitch a camp in the rain and sleep in the wet blan- 
kets and rise at daylight the next morning and hunt. There had been 
bear then. A man shot a doe or a fawn as quickly as he did a buck, and 
in the afternoons they shot wild turkey with pistols to test their stalk- 
ing skill and marksmanship, feeding all but the breast to the dogs. But 
that time was gone now. Now they went in cars, driving faster and 
faster each year because the roads were better and they had farther 
and' farther to drive, the territory in which game still existed draw- 
ing yearly inward as his life was drawing inward, until now he was 
the last of those who had once made the journey in wagons without 
feeling it and now those who accompanied him were the sons and 
even grandsons of the men who had ridden for twenty-four hours 
in the rain or sleet behind the steaming mules. They called him ‘Uncle 
Ike’ now, and he no longer told anyone how near eighty he actually 
was because he knew as well as they did that he no longer had any 
business making such expeditions, even by car. 

From Go Down^ Moses, by William Faulkner; copyright, 1942, by 
William Faulkner. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc. 


5115 


WILLIAM FAULKNER 


In fact, each time now, on that first night in camp, lying aching and 
sleepless in the harsh blankets, his blood only faintly warmed by the 
single thin whisky-and-water which he allowed himself, he would 
tell himself that this would be his last. But he would stand that trip 
— ^he still shot almost as well as he ever had, still killed almost as much 
of the game he saw as he ever killed; he no longer even knew how 
many deer had fallen before his gun — and the fierce long heat of the 
next summer would renew him. Then November would come again, 
and again in the car with two of the sons of his old companions, 
whom he had taught not only how to distinguish between the prints 
left by a buck or a doe but between the sound they made in moving, 
he would look ahead past the jerking arc of the windshield wiper and 
see the land flatten suddenly and swoop, dissolving away beneath the 
rain as the sea itself would dissolve, and he would say, ‘Well, boys, 
there it is again.” 

This time though, he didn’t have time to speak. The driver of the 
car stopped it, slamming it to a skidding halt on the greasy pavement 
without warning, actually flinging the two passengers forward until 
they caught themselves with their braced hands against the dash. 
“What the hell, Roth!” the man in the middle said. “Cant you whis- 
tle first when you do that? Hurt you. Uncle Ike?” 

“No,” the old man said. “What’s the matter?” The driver didn’t 
answer. Still leaning forward, the old man looked sharply past the 
face of the man between them, at the face of his kinsman. It was the 
youngest face of them all, aquiline, saturnine, a little ruthless, the face 
of his ancestor too, tempered a little, altered a little, staring som- 
brely through the streaming windshield across which the twin wipers 
flicked and flicked. 

“I didn’t intend to come back in here this time,” he said suddenly 
and harshly. 

“You said that back in Jefferson last week,” the old man said. 
“Then you changed your mind. Have you changed it again? This 
aint a very good time to 

“Oh, Roth’s coming,” the man in the middle said. His name was 
Legate. He seemed to be speaking to no one, as he was looking at nei- 
ther of them. “If it was just a buck he was coming all this distance 
for, now. But he’s got a doe in here. Of course a old man like Uncle 

316 



DELTA AUTUMN 


Ike cant be interested in no doe, not one that walks on two legs — 
when she’s standing up, that is- Pretty light-colored, too. The one he 
was after them nights last fall when he said he was coon-hunting, 
Uncle Ike. The one I figured maybe he was still running when 
he was gone all that month last January. But of course a old man like 
Uncle Ike aint got no interest in nothing like that.” He chortled, still 
looking at no one, not completely jeering. 

‘What?” the old man said. “What’s that?” But he had not even so 
much as glanced at Legate. He was still watching his kinsman’s face. 
The eyes behind the spectacles were the blurred eyes of an old 
man, but they were quite sharp too; eyes which could still see a gun- 
barrel and what ran beyond it as well as any of them could. He was 
remembering himself now: how last year, during the final stage by 
motor boat in to where they camped, a box of food had been lost 
overboard and how on the next day his kinsman had gone back to the 
nearest town for supplies and had been gone overnight. And when he 
did return, something had happened to him. He would go into the 
woods with his rifle each dawn when the others went, but the old 
man, watching him, knew that he was not hunting. “All right,” he 
said. “Take me and Will on to shelter where we can wait for the truck, 
and you can go on back.” 

“I’m going in,” the other said harshly. “Dont worry. Because this 
will be the last of it.” 

“The last of deer hunting, or of doe hunting?” Legate said. This 
time the old man paid no attention to him even by speech. He still 
watched the young man’s savage and brooding face. 

“Why?” he said. 

“After Hitler gets through with it? Or Smith or Jones or Roosevelt 
or Willkie or whatever he will call himself in this country?” 

“We’ll stop him in this country,” Legate said. “Even if he calls him- 
self George Washington.” 

“How?” Edmonds said. “By singing God bless America in bars at 
midnight and wearing dinle-store flags in our lapels?” 

“So that’s what’s worrying you,” the old man said. “I aint noticed 
this country being short of defenders yet, when it needed them. You 
did some of it yourself twenty-odd years ago, before you were a 
grown man even. This country is a little mite stronger than any 

317 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


one man or group of men, outside of it or even inside of it either. 1 
reckon, when the time comes and some of you have done got tired 
of hollering we are whipped if we dont go to war and some more are 
hollering we are whipped if we do, it will cope with one Austrian 
paper-hanger, no matter what he will be calling himself. My pappy 
and some other better men than any of them you named tried once to 
tear it in two with a war, and they failed.” 

''And what have you got left?” the other said. “Half the people 
without jobs and half the factories closed by strikes. Half the people 
on public dole that wont work and half that couldn’t work even if 
they would. Too much cotton and corn and hogs, and not enough for 
people to eat and wear. The country full of people to tell a man how 
he cant raise his own cotton whether he wiH or wont, and Sally Rand 
with a sergeant’s stripes and not even the fan couldn’t fill the army 
roils. Too much not-butter and not even the guns ” 

“We got a deer camp — ^if we ever get to it,” Legate said. “Not to 
mention does.” 

“It’s a good time to mention does,” the old man said. “Does and 
fawns both. The only fighting anywhere that ever had anything of 
God’s blessing on it has been when men fought to protect does and 
fawns. If it’s going to come to fighting, that’s a good thing to mention 
and remember too.” 

“Haven’t you discovered in — ^how many years more than seventy is 
it? — that women and children are one thing there’s never any scarcity 
of? ” Edmonds said. 

“Maybe that’s why all I am worrying about right now is that ten 
miles of river we still have got to run before we can make camp,” the 
old man said. “So let’s get on.” 

They went on. Soon they were going fast again, as Edmonds always 
drove, consulting neither of them about the speed just as he had 
given neither of them any warning when he slammed the car to stop. 
The old man relaxed again. He watched, as he did each recurrent 
November while more than sixty of them passed, the land which he 
had seen change. At first there had been only the old towns along the 
River and the old towns along the hills, from each of which the plant- 
ers with their gangs of slaves and then of hired laborers had wrested 
from tile impenetrable jungle of water-standing cane and cypress, 

2m 



DELTA AUTUMN 


gum and holly and oak and ash, cotton patches which as the years 
passed became fields and then plantations. The paths made by deer 
and bear became roads and then highways, with towns in turn spring- 
ing up along them and along the rivers Tallahatchie and Sunflower 
which joined and became the Yazoo, the River of the Dead of the 
Choctaws — ^the thick, slow, black, unsunned streams almost without 
current, which once each year ceased to flow at all and then reversed, 
spreading, drowning the rich land and subsiding again, leaving it still 
richer. 

Most of that was gone now. Now a man drove two hundred miles 
from Jefferson before he found wilderness to hunt in. Now the land 
lay open from the cradling hills on the East to the rampart of levee 
on the West, standing horseman-tall with cotton for the world’s 
looms — the rich black land, imponderable and vast, fecund up to the 
very doorsteps of the negroes who worked it and of the white men 
who owned it; which exhausted the hunting life of a dog in one 
year, the working life of a mule in five and of a man in twenty — the 
land in which neon flashed past them from the little countless towns 
and countless shining this-year’s automobiles sped past them on the 
broad plumb-ruled highways, yet in which the only permanent mark 
of man’s occupation seemed to be the tremendous gins, constructed 
in sections of sheet iron and in a week’s time though they were, since 
no man, millionaire though he be, would build more than a roof 
and walls to shelter the camping equipment he lived from when he 
knew that once each ten years or so his house would be flooded to 
the second storey and all within it ruined; — the land across which 
there came now no scream of panther but instead the long hooting 
of locomotives: trains of incredible length and drawn by a single 
engine, since there was no gradient anywhere and no elevation save 
those raised by forgotten aboriginal hands as refuges from the yearly 
water and used by their Indian successors to sepulchre their fathers’ 
bones, and all that remained of that old time were the Indian names 
on the little towns and usually pertaining to water — ^Aluschaskuna, 
Tillatoba, Homochitto, Yazoo. 

By early afternoon, they were on water. At the last little Indian- 
named town at the end of pavement they waited until the other car 
and the two trucks— the one carrying the bedding and tents and food, 


319 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


the other the horses — overtook them. They left the concrete and, 
after another mile or so, the gravel too. In caravan they ground on 
through the ceaselessly dissolving afternoon, with skid-chains on the 
wheels now, lurching and splashing and sliding among the ruts, until 
presently it seemed to him that the retrograde of his remembering 
had gained an inverse velocity from their own slow progress, that the 
land had retreated not in minutes from the last spread of gravel but 
in years, decades, back toward what it had been when he first knew 
it: the road they now followed once more the ancient pathway of 
bear and deer, the diminishing fields they now passed once more 
scooped punily and terrifically by axe and saw and mule-drawn 
plow from the wilderness’ flank, out of the brooding and immemo- 
rial tangle, in place of ruthless mile-wide parallelograms wrought by 
ditching the dyking machinery. 

They reached the river landing and unloaded, the horses to go 
overland down stream to a point opposite the camp and swim the 
river, themselves and the bedding and food and dogs and guns in the 
motor launch. It was himself, though no horseman, no farmer, not 
even a countryman save by his distant birth and boyhood, who coaxed 
and soothed the two horses, drawing them by his own single frail 
hand until, backing, filling, trembling a little, they surged, halted, then 
sprang scrambling down from the truck, possessing no affinity for 
them as creatures, beasts, but being merely insulated by his years and 
time from the corruption of steel and oiled moving parts which 
tainted the others. 

Then, his old hammer double gun which was only twelve years 
younger than he standing between his knees, he watched even the 
last puny marks of man — cabin, clearing, the small and irregular fields 
which a year ago were jungle and in which the skeleton stalks of this 
year’s cotton stood almost as tall and rank as the old cane had stood, 
as if man had had to marry his planting to the wilderness in order to 
conquer it— -fall away and vanish. The twin banks marched with wil- 
derness as he remembered it— the tangle of brier and cane impene- 
trable even to sight twenty feet away, the tall tremendous soaring of 
oak and gum and ash and hickory which had rung to no axe save the 
hunter’s, had echoed to no machinery save the beat of old-time steam 
boats traversing it or to the snarling of launches like their own of peo- 

320 



DELTA AUTUMN 


pie going into it to dwell for a week or two weeks because it was still 
wilderness. There was some of it left, although now it was two hun- 
dred miles from Jefferson when once it had been thirty. He had 
watched it, not being conquered, destroyed, so much as retreating 
since its purpose was served now and its time an outmoded time, re- 
treating southward through this inverted-apex, this V -shaped section 
of earth between hills and River until what was left of it seemed now 
to be gathered and for the time arrested in one tremendous density 
of brooding and inscrutable impenetrability at the ultimate funnelling 
tip. 

They reached the site of their last-year’s camp with still two hours 
left of light. “You go on over under that driest tree and set down,” 
Legate told him. “ — ^if you can find it. Me and these other young boys 
will do this.” He did neither. He was not tired yet. That would come 
later. Maybe it wont come at all this tnne^ he thought, as he had 
thought at this point each November for the last five or six of them. 
Maybe 1 will go out on stand in the morning too; knowing that he 
would not, not even if he took the advice and sat down under the 
driest shelter and did nothing until camp was made and supper 
cooked. Because it would not be the fatigue. It would be because he 
would not sleep tonight but would lie instead wakeful and peaceful 
on the cot amid the tent-filling snoring and the rain’s whisper as he 
always did on the first night in camp; peaceful, without regret or fret- 
ting, telling himself that was all right too, who didn’t have so many of 
them left as to waste dne sleeping. 

In his slicker he directed the unloading of the boat — ^the tents, the 
stove, the bedding, the food for themselves and the dogs until there 
should be meat in camp. He sent two of the negroes to cut firewood; 
he had the cook-tent raised and the stove up and a fire going and sup- 
per cooking while the big tent was still being staked down. Then in 
the beginning of dusk he crossed in the boat to where the horses 
waited, backing and snorting at the water. He took the lead-ropes and 
with no more weight than that and his voice, he drew them down 
into the water and held them beside the boat with only their heads 
above the surface, as though they actually were suspended from his 
frail and strengthless old man’s hands, while the boat recrossed and 
each horse in turn lay prone in the shallows, panting and trembling, 


321 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


its eyes roiling in the dusk, until the same weightless hand and un- 
raised voice gathered it surging upward, splashing and thrashing up 
the bank. 

Then the meal was ready. The last of light was gone now save the 
thin stain of it snared somewhere between the river’s surface and the 
rain. He had the single glass of thin whisky-and-water, then, standing 
in the churned mud beneath the stretched tarpaulin, he said grace 
over the fried slabs of pork, the hot soft shapeless bread, the canned 
beans and molasses and coffee in iron plates and cups, — the town food, 
brought along with them — ^then covered himself again, the others fol- 
lowing. “Eat,” he said. “Eat it all up. I dont want a piece of town meat 
in camp after breakfast tomorrow. Then you boys will hunt. You’ll 
have to. When I first started hunting in this bottom sixty years ago 
with old General Compson and Major de Spain and Roth’s grand- 
father and Will Legate’s too, Major de Spain wouldn’t allow but two 
pieces of foreign grub in his camp. That was one side of pork and one 
ham of beef. And not to eat for the first supper and breakfast neither. 
It was to save until along toward the end of camp when everybody 
was so sick of bear meat and coon and venison that we couldn’t 
even look at it.” 

“I thought Uncle Ike was going to say the pork and beef was for 
the dogs,” Legate said, chewing. “But that’s right; I remember. You 
just shot the dogs a mess of wild turkey every evening when they got 
tired of deer guts.” 

“Times are different now,” another said. “There was game here 
then.” 

“Yes,” the old man said quietly. “There was game here then.” 

“Besides, they shot does then too,” Legate said. “As it is now, we 
aint got but one doe-hunter in ” 

“And better men hunted it,” Edmonds said. He stood at the end 
of the rough plank table, eating rapidly and steadily as the others ate. 
But again the old man looked sharply across at the sullen, handsome, 
brooding face which appeared now darker and more sullen still in 
the light of the smolcy lantern. “Go on. Say it,” 

“I didn’t say that,” the old man said. “There are good men every- 
where, at all times. Most men are. Some are just unlucky, because 

322 



DELTA AUTUMN 


most men are a little better than their circumstances give them a 
chance to be. And Fve known some that even the circumstances 
couldn’t stop.” 

‘‘Well, I wouldn’t say — ” Legate said. 

“So you’ve lived almost eighty years,” Edmonds said. “And that’s 
what you finally learned about the other animals you lived among. I 
suppose the question to ask you is, where have you been all the time 
you were dead?” 

There was a silence; for the instant even Legate’s jaw stopped 
chewing while he gaped at Edmonds. “Well, by God, Roth — ” the 
third speaker said. But it was the old man who spoke, his voice still 
peaceful and untroubled and merely grave: 

“Maybe so,” he said. “But if being what you call alive would have 
learned me any different, I reckon I’m satisfied, wherever it was I’ve 
been.” 

“Well, I -wouldn’t say that Roth — ” Legate said. 

The third speaker was still leaning forward a little over the table, 
looking at Edmonds. “Meaning that it’s only because folks happen to 
be watching him that a man behaves at all,” he said. “Is that it? ” 

“Yes,” Edmonds said. “A man in a blue coat, with a badge on it 
watching him. Maybe just the badge.” 

“I deny that,” the old man said. “I dont ” 

The other two paid no attention to him. Even Legate was listening 
to them for the moment, his mouth still full of food and still open 
a little, his knife with another lump of something balanced on the tip 
of the blade arrested halfway to his mouth. “I’m glad I dont have your 
opinion of folks,” the third speaker said, “I take it you include your- 
self.” 

“I see,” Edmonds said. “You prefer Uncle Ike’s opinion of circum- 
stances. All right. Who makes the circumstances?” 

“Luck,” the third said. “Chance. Happen-so. I see what you are get- 
ting at- But that’s just what Uncle Ike said: that now and then, maybe 
most of the time, man is a little better than the net result of his and 
his neighbors’ doings, when he gets the chance to be.” 

This time Legate swallowed first. He was not to be stopped this 
time, “Well, I wouldn’t say that Roth Edmonds can hunt one doe 


323 



WrLLIAM FAULKNER 


every day and night for two weeks and was a poor hunter or a un- 
lucky one neither. A man that still have the same doe left to hunt on 
again next year 

“Have some meat,” the man next to him said. 

“ — aint no unlucky — What?” Legate said. 

“Have some meat.” The other offered the dish. 

“I got some,” Legate said. 

“Have some more,” the third speaker said. “You and Roth 
Edmonds both. Have a heap of it. Clapping your jaws together that 
way with nothing to break the shock.” Someone chortled. Then they 
all laughed, with relief, the tension broken. But the old man was 
speaking, even into the laughter, in that peaceful and still untrou- 
bled voice: 

“I still believe. I see proof everywhere. I grant that man made a heap 
of his circumstances, him and his living neighbors between them. He 
even inherited some of them already made, already almost ruined 
even. A while ago Henry Wyatt there said how there used to be more 
game here. There was. So much that we even killed does. I seem to 
remember Will Legate mentioning that too — ” Someone laughed, a 
single guffaw, stillborn. It ceased and they all listened, gravely, look- 
ing down at their plates. Edmonds was drinking his coffee, sullen, 
brooding, inattentive. 

“Some folks still kill does,” Wyatt said. “There wont be just one 
buck hanging in this bottom tomorrow night without any head to fit 
it.” 

“I didn’t say all men,” the old man said. “I said most men. And not 
just because there is a man with a badge to watch us. We probably 
wont even see him unless maybe he will stop here about noon tomor- 
row and eat dinner with us and check our licenses ” 

“We dont kill does because if we did kill does in a few years there 
wouldn’t even be any bucks left to Mil, Uncle Ike,” Wyatt said. 

“According to Roth yonder, that’s one thing we wont never have 
to worry about,” the old man said. “He said on the way here this 
morning that does and fawns — I believe he said women and children 
—are two things this world aint ever lacked. But that aint all of it,” 
he said. “That’s just the mind’s reason a man has to give himself be- 
cause the heart dont always have time to bother with thinking up 

324 



DELTA AUTUMN 


words that fit together. God created man and He created the world 
for him to live in and I reckon He created the kind of world He 
would have wanted to live in if He had been a man — ^the ground to 
walk on, the big woods, the trees and the water, and the game to live 
in it. And maybe He didn’t put the desire to hunt and kill game in 
man but I reckon He knew it was going to be there, that man was go- 
ing to teach it to himself, since he wasn’t quite God himself yet ” 

“When will he be? ” Wyatt said. 

“I think that every man and woman, at the instant when it dont 
even matter whether they marry or not, I think that whether they 
marry then or afterward or dont never, at that instant the two of 
them together were God.” 

“Then there are some Gods in this world I wouldn’t want to 
touch, and with a damn long stick,” Edmonds said. He set his coffee 
cup down and looked at Wyatt. “And that includes myself, if that’s 
what you want to know. I’m going to bed.” He was gone. There was 
a general movement among the others. But it ceased and they stood 
again about the table, not looking at the old man, apparently held 
there yet by his quiet and peaceful voice as the heads of the swim- 
ming horses had been held above the water by his weightless hand. 
The three negroes — ^the cook and his helper* and old Isham — ^were 
sitting quietly in the entrance of the kitchen tent, listening too, the 
three faces dark and motionless and musing. 

“He put them both here: man, and the game he would follow and 
kill, foreknowing it. I believe He said, ^So be it.’ I reckon He even 
foreknew the end. But He said, T will give him his chance. I will give 
him warning and foreknowledge too, along with the desire to follow 
and the power to slay. The woods and fields he ravages and the game 
he devastates wiU be the consequence and signature of his crime and 
guilt, and his punishment.’ — ^Bed time,” he said. His voice and inflec- 
tion did not change at all. “Breakfast at four oclock, Isham. We want 
meat on the ground by sunup time.” 

There was a good fire in the sheet-iron heater; the tent was warm ^ 
and was beginning to dry out, except for the mud underfoot. 
Edmonds was already rolled into his blankets, motionless, his face to 
the wail Isham had made up his bed too — ^the strong, battered iron 
cot, the stained mattress which was not quite soft enough, the worn. 


325 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


often-washed blankets which as the years passed were less and less 
warm enough. But the tent was warm; presently, when the kitchen 
was cleaned up and readied for breakfast, the young negro would 
come in to lie down before the heater, where he could be roused to 
put fresh wood into it from time to time. And then, he knew now he 
would not sleep tonight anyway; he no longer needed to tell himself 
that perhaps he would. But it was all right now. The day was ended 
now and night faced him, but alarmless, empty of fret. Mayke 1 came 
for thisy he thought: Not to hu?ity but for this, 1 would come any-^ 
way^ even if only to go back ho7ne tomorrow. Wearing only his bag- 
ging woolen underwear, his spectacles folded away in the worn case 
beneath the pillow where he could reach them readily and his lean 
body fitted easily into the old worn groove of mattress and blankets, 
he lay on his back, his hands crossed on his breast and his eyes closed 
while the others undressed and went to bed and the last of the spo- 
radic talking died into snoring. Then he opened his eyes and lay 
peaceful and quiet as a child, looking up at the motionless belly of 
rain-murmured canvas upon which the glow of the heater was dying 
slowly away and would fade still further until the young negro, lying 
on two planks before it, would sit up and stoke it and lie back down 
again. 

They had a house once. That was sixty years ago, when the Big 
Bottom was only thirty miles from Jefferson and old Major de Spain, 
who had been his father’s cavalry commander in ’61 and ’2 and ’3 and 
’4, and his cousin (his older brother; his father too) had taken him 
into the woods for the first time. Old Sam Fathers was alive then, 
born in slavery, son of a Negro slave and a Chickasaw chief, who had 
taught him how to shoot, not only when to shoot but when not to; 
such a November dawn as tomorrow would be and the old man led 
him suaight to the great cypress and he had known the buck would 
pass exactly there because there was something running in Sam Fath- 
ers’ veins wlu'ch ran in the veins of the buck too, and they stood there 
against the tremendous trunk, the old man of seventy and the boy of 
twelve, and there was nothing save the dawn until suddenly the buck 
was there, smoke-colored out of nothing, magnificent with speed: 
and Sam Fathers said, Now. Shoot quick and shoot slow:’ and the 
gun levelled rapidly without haste and crashed and he walked to the 

326 



DELTA AUTUMN 


buck lying still intact and still in the shape of that magnificent speed 
and bled it with Sam’s knife and Sam dipped his hands into the hot 
blood and marked his face forever while he stood trying not to trem- 
ble, humbly and with pride too though the boy of twelve had been 
unable to phrase it then: 1 slew you; my bearing must not shame your 
quitting life. My conduct forever onward must become your death; 
marking him for that and for more than that: that day and himself 
and McCaslin juxtaposed not against the wilderness but against the 
tamed land, the old wrong and shame itself, in repudiation and de- 
nial at least of the land and the wrong and shame even if he couldn’t 
cure the wrong and eradicate the shame, who at fourteen when he 
learned of it had believed he could do both when he became compe- 
tent and when at twenty-one he became competent he knew that he 
could do neither but at least he could repudiate the wrong and shame, 
at least in principle, and at least the land itself in fact, for his son at 
least: and did, thought he had: then (married then) in a rented cu- 
bicle in a back-street stock-traders’ boarding-house, the first and 
last time he ever saw her naked body, himself and his wife juxtaposed 
in their turn against that same land, that same wrong and shame from 
whose regret and grief he would at least save and free his son and, 
saving and freeing his son, lost him. They had the house then. That 
roof, the two weeks of each November which they spent under it, 
had become his home. Although since that time they had lived during 
the two fall weeks in tents and not always in the same place two years 
in succession and now his companions were the sons and even the 
grandsons of them with whom he had lived in the house and for al- 
most fifty years now the house itself had not even existed, the con- 
viction, the sense and feeling of home, had been merely transferred 
into the canvas. He owned a house in Jefferson, a good house though 
small, where he had had a wife and lived with her and lost her, ay, 
lost her even though he had lost her in the rented cubicle before he 
and his old clever dipsomaniac partner had finished the house for 
them to move into it: but lost her, because she loved him. But women 
hope for so much. They never live too long to still believe that any- 
thing within the scope of their passionate wanting is likewise within 
the range of their passionate hope: and it was still kept for him by his 
dead wife’s widowed niece and her children and he was comfortable 


327 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


in it, Ms wants and needs and even the small trying harmless crochets 
of an old man looked after by blood at least related to the blood 
which he had elected out of all the earth to cherish. But he spent the 
time within those walls waiting for November, because even tMs tent 
with its muddy floor and the bed which was not wide enough nor 
soft enough nor even warm enough, was his home and these men, 
some of whom he only saw during these two November weeks and 
not one of whom even bore any name he used to know — ^De Spain and 
Compson and Ewell and Hogganbeck — ^were more his kin than any. 
Because this was his land 

The shadow of the youngest negro loomed. It soared, blotting the 
heater’s dying glow from the ceiling, the wood billets thumping into 
the iron maw until the glow, the flame, leaped high and bright across 
the canvas. But the negro’s shadow still remained, by its length and 
breadth, standing, since it covered most of the ceiling, until after a 
moment he raised himself on one elbow to look. It was not the negro, 
it was his kinsman; when he spoke the other turned sharp against the 
red firelight the sullen and ruthless profile. 

“Nothing,” Edmonds said. “Go on back to sleep.” 

“Since Will Legate mentioned it,” McCaslin said, “I remember you 
had some trouble sleeping in here last fall too. Only you called 
it coon-hunting then. Or was it Will Legate called it that?” The other 
didn’t answer. Then he turned and went back to his bed. McCaslin, 
still propped on his elbow, watched until the other’s shadow sank 
down the wall and vanished, became one with the mass of sleeping 
shadows. “That’s right,” he said. “Try to get some sleep. We must 
have meat in camp tomorrow. You can do aU the setting up you want 
to after that.” He lay down again, his hands crossed again on Ms 
breast, watching the glow of the heater on the canvas ceiling. It 
was steady again now, the fresh wood accepted, being assimilated; 
soon it would begin to fade again, taking with it the last echo of that 
sudden upflare of a young man’s passion and unrest. Let him lie awake 
for a little while, he thought; He will He still some day for a long time 
without even dissatisfaction to disturb him. And lying awake here, in 
these surroundings, would soothe him if anything could, if anything 
could soothe a man just forty years old. Yes, he thought; Forty years 

328 



DELTA AUTUMN 


old or thirty, or even the trembling and sleepless ardor of a boy; al- 
ready the tent, the rain-murmnred canvas globe, was once more filled 
with it. He lay on his back, his eyes closed, his breathing quiet and 
peaceful as a child’s, listening to it — ^that silence which was never si- 
lence but was myriad. He could almost see it, tremendous, primeval, 
looming, musing downward upon this puny evanescent clutter of hu- 
man sojourn which after a single brief week would vanish and 
in another week would be completely healed, traceless in the un- 
marked solitude. Because it was his land, although he had never 
owned a foot of it. He had never wanted to, not even after he saw 
plain its ultimate doom, watching it retreat year by year before the 
onslaught of axe and saw and log-lines and then dynamite and tractor 
plows, because it belonged to no man. It belonged to all; they 
had only to use it well, humbly and with pride. Then suddenly he 
knew why he had never wanted to own any of it, arrest at least that 
much of what people called progress, measure his longevity at least 
against that much of its ultimate fate. It was because there was just 
exactly enough of it. He seemed to see the two of them — himself and 
the wilderness — as coevals, his own span as a hunter, a woodsman, not 
contemporary with his first breath but transmitted to him, assumed 
by him gladly, humbly, with joy and pride, from that old Major de 
Spain and that old Sam Fathers who had taught him to hunt, the two 
spans running out together, not toward oblivion, nothingness, but into 
a dimension free of both time and space where once more the untreed 
land warped and wrung to mathematical squares of rank cotton for 
the frantic old-world people to turn into shells to shoot at one 
another, would find ample room for both — ^the names, the faces of 
the old men he bad known and loved and for a little while outlived, 
moving again among the shades of tall unaxed trees and sightless 
brakes where the wild strong immortal game ran forever before the 
tireless belling immortal hounds, falling and rising phoenix-like to the 
soundless guns. 

He had been asleep. The lantern was lighted now. Outside in the 
darkness the oldest negro, Isham, was beating a spoon against the bot- 
tom of a tin pan and crying, “Raise up and get yo foa clock coffy. 
Raise up and get yo foa clock coffy,” and the tent was full of low talk 


329 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


and of men dressing, and Legate’s voice, repeating: “Get out of here 
now and let Uncle Ike sleep. If you wake him up, he’ll go out with 
us. And he aint got any business in the woods this morning.” 

So he didn’t move. He lay with his eyes closed, his breathing gentle 
and peaceful, and heard them one by one leave the tent. He listened 
to the breakfast sounds from the table beneath the tarpaulin and heard 
them depart — ^the horses, the dogs, the last voice until it died away 
and there was only the sounds of the negroes clearing breakfast away. 
After a while he might possibly even hear the first faint clear cry of 
the first hound ring through the wet woods from where the buck had 
bedded, then he would go back to sleep again — The tent-flap swung 
in and fell. Something jarred sharply against the end of the cot and a 
hand grasped his knee through the blanket before he could open his 
eyes. It was Edmonds, carrying a shotgun in place of his rifle. He 
spoke in a harsh, rapid voice: 

“Sorry to wake you. There will be a ” 

“I was awake,” McCaslin said. “Are you going to shoot that shotgun 
today?” 

“You just told me last night you want meat,” Edmonds said. “There 
will be a ” 

“Since when did you start having trouble getting meat with your 
rifle?” 

“All right,” the other said, with that harsh, restrained, furious im- 
patience. Then McCaslin saw in his hand a thick oblong: an envelope, 
“There will be a message here some time this morning, looking for 
me. Maybe it wont come. If it does, give the messenger this and tell 
h — say I said No.” 

“A what?” McCaslin said. “Tell who?” He half rose onto his elbow 
as Edmonds jerked the envelope onto the blanket, already turning to- 
ward the entrance, the envelope striking solid and heavy and without 
noise and already sliding from the bed until McCaslin caught it, divin- 
ing by feel through the paper as instantaneously and conclusively as if 
he had opened the envelope and looked, the thick sheaf of banknotes. 
“Wait,” he said. “Wait:” — ^more than the blood kinsman, more even 
than the senior in years, so that the other paused, the canvas lifted, 
looking back, and McCaslin saw that outside it was already day. “Tell 
her No,” he said, “Tell her.” They stared at one another — ^the old 

330 



DELTA AUTUMN 


face, wan, sleep-raddled above the tumbled bed, the dark and sullen 
younger one at once furious and cold. ‘Will Legate was right. This is 
what you called coon-hunting. And now this.” He didn’t raise the en- 
velope. He made no motion, no gesture to indicate it. ‘What did you 
promise her that you haven’t the courage to face her and retract?” 

“Nothing!” the other said. “Nothing! This is ail of it. Tell her I 
said No.” He was gone. The tent flap lifted on an in-waft of faint 
light and the constant murmur of rain, and fell again, leaving the old 
man still half-raised onto one elbow, the envelope clutched in 
the other shaking hand. Afterward it seemed to him that he had be- 
gun to hear the approaching boat almost immediately, before the 
other could have got out of sight even. It seemed to him that there 
had been no interval whatever: the tent flap falling on the same out- 
waft of faint and rain-filled light like the suspiration and expiration 
of the same breath and then in the next second lifted again — ^the 
mounting snarl of the outboard engine, increasing, nearer and nearer 
and louder and louder then cut short ofl, ceasing with the absolute 
instantaneity of a blown-out candle, into the lap and plop of water 
under the bows as the skiff slid in to the bank, the youngest negro, the 
youth, raising the tent flap beyond which for that instant he saw the 
boat-^ — a small skiff with a negro man sitting in the stern beside the up- 
slanted motor — ^then the woman entering, in a man’s hat and a man’s 
slicker and rubber boots, carrying the blanket-swaddled bundle on 
one arm and holding the edge of the unbuttoned raincoat over it with 
the other hand: and bringing something else, something intangible, 
an effluvium which he knew he would recognise in a moment because 
Isham had already told him, warned him, by sending the young negro 
to the tent to announce the visitor instead of coming himself, the flap 
falling at last on the young negro and they, were alone — ^the face in- , 
distinct and as yet only young and with dark eyes, queerly colorless 
but not ill and not that of a country woman despite the garments she 
wore, looking down at him where he sat upright on the cot now, 
clutching the envelope, the soiled undergarment bagging about him 
and the twisted blankets huddled about his hips. 

“Is that his?” he cried. “Don’t lie to me!” 

“Yes,” she said. “He’s gone.” 

“Yes. He’s gone. You wont jump him here. Not this time. I dont 

331 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


reckon even you expected that. He left you this. Here.” He fumbled 
at the envelope. It was not to pick it up, because it was still in 
his hand; he had never put it down. It was as if he had to fumble 
somehow to co-ordinate physically his heretofore obedient hand with 
what his brain was commanding of it, as if he had never performed 
such an action before, extending the envelope at last, saying again, 
“Here. Take it. Take it;” until he became aware of her eyes, or not 
the eyes so much as the look, the regard fixed now on his face with 
that immersed contemplation, that bottomless and intent candor, of a 
child. If she had ever seen either the envelope or his movement to ex- 
tend it, she did not show it. 

“You’re Uncle Isaac,” she said. 

“Yes,” he said. “But never mind that. Here. Take it. He said to tell 
you No.” She looked at the envelope, then she took it. It was sealed 
and bore no superscription. Nevertheless, even after she glanced at 
the front of it, he watched her hold it in the one free hand and tear 
the corner off with her teeth and manage to rip it open and tilt the 
neat sheaf of bound notes onto the blanket without even glancing at 
them and look into the empty envelope and take the edge between 
her teeth and tear it completely open before she crumpled and 
dropped it. 

“That’s just money,” she said. 

“What did you expect? What else did you expect? You have known 
him long enough or at least often enough to have got that child, and 
you dont know him any better than that?” 

“Not very often. Not very long. Just that week here last fall, and 
in January he sent for me and we went West, to New Mexico. We 
were there six weeks, where I could at least sleep in the same apart- 
ment where I cooked for him and looked after his clothes ” 

“But not marriage,” he said. “Not marriage. He didn’t promise you 
that. Dont lie to me. He didn’t have to.” 

“No. He didn’t have to. I didn’t ask him to. I knew what I was do- 
ing. I knew that to begin with, long before honor I imagine he called 
it told him the time had come to tell me in so many words what his 
code I suppose he would call it would forbid him forever to do. And 
we agreed. Then we agreed again before he left New Mexico, to make 
^ sure. That that would be ah of it. I believed him. No, I dont mean 


332 



delta autumn 


that; I mean I believed myself. I wasn’t even listening to him anymore 
by then because by that time it had been a long time since he had had 
anything else to tell me for me to have to hear. By then I wasn’t even 
listening enough to ask him to please stop talking. I was listening to 
myself. And I believed it. I must have believed it. I dont see how I 
could have helped but beheve it, because he was gone then as we had 
agreed and he didn’t write as we had agreed, just the money came to 
the bank in Vicksburg in my name but coming from nobody as we 
had agreed. So I must have believed it. I even wrote him last month 
to make sure again and the letter came back unopened and I was sure. 
So I left the hospital and rented myself a room to live in until the deer 
season opened so I could make sure myself and I was waiting beside 
the road yesterday when your car passed and he saw me and so I was 
sure.” 

“Then what do you want?” he said. “What do you want? What do 
you expect?” 

“Yes,” she said. And while he glared at her, his white hair awry 
from the pillow and his eyes, lacking the spectacles to focus them, 
blurred and irisless and apparently pupilless, he saw again that grave, 
intent, speculative and detached fixity like a child watching him. “His 
great great — ^Wait a minute. — ^great great great grandfather was your 
grandfather. McCaslin. Only it got to be Edmonds. Only it got to be 
more than that. Your cousin McCaslin was there that day when your 
father and Uncle Buddy won Tennie from Mr Beauchamp for the 
one that had no name but Terrel so you called him Tomey’s Terrel, 
to marry. But after that it got to be Edmonds.” She regarded him, al- 
most peacefully, with that unwinking and heatless fixity — ^the dark 
wide bottomless eyes in the face’s dead and toneless pallor which to 
the old man looked anything but dead, but young and incredibly and 
even ineradicably alive — as though she were not only not looking at 
anything, she was not even speaking to anyone but herself. “I would 
have made a man of him. He’s not a man yet. You spoiled him. You, 
and Uncle Lucas and Aunt Mollie. But mostly you.” 

“Me?” he said. “Me?” 

“Yes. When you gave to his grandfather that land which didn’t be- 
long to him, not even half of it by will or even law.” 

“And never mind that too,” he said. “Never mind that too. You,” 


333 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


he said. ‘‘‘You sound like you have been to college even. You sound 
almost like a Northerner even, not like the draggle-tailed women of 
these Delta peckerwoods. Yet you meet a man on the street one after- 
noon just because a box of groceries happened to fail out of a boat. 
And a month later you go off with him and live with him until he got 
a child on you: and then, by your own statement, you sat there while 
he took his hat and said goodbye and walked out. Even a Delta 
peckerwood would look after even a draggle-tail better than that. 
Haven’t you got any folks at all?” 

“Yes,” she said. “I was living with one of them. My aunt, in Vicks- 
burg. I came to live with her two years ago when my father died; we 
lived in Indianapolis then. But I got a job, teaching school here in 
Aluschaskuna, because my aunt was a widow, with a big family, tak- 
ing in washing to sup ” 

“Took in what?” he said. “Took in washing?” He sprang, still 
seated even, dinging himself backward onto one arm, awry-haired, 
glaring. Now he understood what it was she had brought into the 
tent with her, what old Isham had already told him by sending the 
youth to bring her in to him — the pale lips, the skin pallid and dead- 
locking yet not ill, the dark and tragic and foreknowing eyes. Maybe 
in a thousand or two thousand years in America^ he thought. But not 
now! Not now! He cried, not loud, in a voice of amazement, pity, 
and outrage: “You’re a nigger!” 

“Yes,” she said. “James Beauchamp — ^you called him Tennie’s Jim 
though he had a name — ^was my grandfather. I said you were Uncle 
Isaac.” 

“And he knows?” 

“No,” she said- “What good would that have done?” 

“But you did,” he cried. “But you did. Then what do you expect 
here?” 

“Nothing.” 

“Then why did you come here? You said you were waiting 
in Aluschaskuna yesterday and he saw you. Why did you come this 
morning?” 

“Fm going back North. Back home. My cousin brought me up the 
day before yesterday in his boat He’s going to take me on to Leland 
to get the train.” 

334 



delta autumn 


“Then go,” he said. Then he cried again in that thin not loud and 
grieving voice: “Get out of here! I can do nothing for you! Cant no- 
body do nothing for you!” She moved; she was not looking at him 
again, toward the entrance. “Wait,” he said. She paused again, obedi- 
ently still, turning. He took up the sheaf of banknotes and laid it on 
the blanket at the foot of the cot and drew his hand back beneath the 
blanket. “There,” he said. 

Now she looked at the money, for the first time, one brief blank 
glance, then away again. “I dont need it. He gave me money last win- 
ter. Besides the money he sent to Vicksburg. Provided. Honor and 
code too. That was all arranged.” 

“Take it,” he said. His voice began to rise again, but he stopped it. 
“Take it out of my tent.” She came back to the cot and took up the 
money; whereupon once more he said, “Wait:” although she had not 
turned, still stooping, and he put out his hand. But, sitting, he could 
not complete the reach until she moved her hand, the single hand 
which held the money, until he touched it. He didn’t grasp it, 
he merely touched it — the gnarled, bloodless, bone-light bone-dry 
old man’s fingers touching for a second the smooth young fiesh where 
the strong old blood ran after its long lost journey back to home. 
“Tennie’s Jim,” he said. “Tennie’s Jim.” He drew the hand back be- 
neath the blanket again: he said harshly now: “It’s a boy, I reckon. 
They usually are, except that one that was its own mother too.” 

“Yes,” she said. “It’s a boy.” She stood for a moment longer, looking 
at him. Just for an instant her free hand moved as though she were 
about to lift the edge of the raincoat away from the child’s face. But 
she did not. She turned again when once more he said Wait and 
moved beneath the blanket. 

“Turn your back,” he said. “I am going to get up. I aint got my 
pants on.” Then he could not get up. He sat in the huddled blanket, 
shaking, while again she turned and looked down at him in dark in- 
terrogation. “There,” he said harshly, in the thin and shaking old 
man’s voice. “On the nail there. The tent-pole.” 

“What?” she said. 

“The horn!” he said harshly. “The horn.” She went and got 
it, thrust the money into the slicker’s side pocket as if it were a rag, a 
soiled handkerchief, and lifted down the horn, the one which Gen- 


335 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


eral Compson had left him in his will, covered with the unbroken skin 
from a buck’s shank and bound with silver. 

“What?” she said. 

“It’s his. Take it.” 

“Oh,” she said. “Yes. Thank you.” 

“Yes,” he said, harshly, rapidly, but not so harsh now and soon not 
harsh at all but just rapid, urgent, until he knew that his voice was 
running away with him and he had neither intended it nor could stop 
it: “That’s right. Go back North. Marry: a man in your own race. 
That’s the only salvation for you — ^for a while yet, maybe a long 
while yet. We will have to wait. Marry a black man. You are young, 
handsome, almost white; you could find a black man who would see 
in you what it was you saw in him, who would ask nothing of you 
and expect less and get even still less than that, if it’s revenge you 
want. Then you will forget all this, forget it ever happened, that he 
ever existed — ” until he could stop it at last and did, sitting there in 
liis huddle of blankets during the instant when, without moving at all, 
she blazed silently down at him. Then that was gone too. She stood in 
the gleaming and still dripping slicker, looking quietly down at him 
from under the sodden hat. 

“Old man,” she said, “have you lived so long and forgotten so much 
that you dont remember anything you ever knew or felt or even 
heard about love?” 

Then she was gone too. The waft of light and the murmur of the 
constant rain flowed into the tent and then out again as the flap fell. 
Lying back once more, trembling, panting, the blanket huddled to his 
chin and his hands crossed on his breast, he listened to the pop and 
snarl, the mounting then fading whine of the motor until it died away 
and once again the tent held only silence and the sound of rain. And 
cold too: he lay shaking faintly and steadily in it, rigid save for the 
shaking. This Delta, he thought: This Delta. This Imd which man has 
deswamped and denuded and derivered in two generations so that 
white men can own plantations and commute every night to Memphis 
and black men own plantations and ride in jim crow cars to Chicago 
to live in millionaires’ ?nansions on Lakeshore Drive, where white men 
rent far?ns and live like niggers and niggers crop on shares and live 
like animalsy where cotton is planted and grows man-tall in the very 


336 



delta autumn 


cracks of the sidewalks, and usury and mortgage and bankruptcy and 
measureless wealth, Chinese and African and Aryan and Jew, all breed 
and spawn together until no man has time to say which one is which 
nor cares. . . . No wonder the ruined woods I used to know dont 
cry for retribution! he thought: The people who have destroyed it 
will accomplish its revenge. 

The tent flap jerked rapidly in and fell. He did not move save to 
turn his head and open his eyes. It was Legate. He went quickly to 
Edmonds’ bed and stooped, rummaging hurriedly among the still- 
tumbled blankets. 

“What is it?” he said. 

“Looking for Roth’s knife,” Legate said. “I come back to get a 
horse. We got a deer on the ground.” He rose, the knife in his hand, 
and hurried toward the entrance. 

“Who kiUed it?” McCaslin said. “Was it Roth?” 

“Yes,” Legate said, raising the flap. 

“Wait,” McCaslin said. He moved, suddenly, onto his elbow. “What 
was it?” Legate paused for an instant beneath the lifted flap. He did 
not look back. 

“Just a deer. Uncle Ike,” he said impatiently. “Nothing extra.” He 
was gone; again the flap fell behind him, wafting out of the tent again 
the faint light and the constant and grieving rain. McCaslin lay back 
down, the blanket once more drawn to his chin, his crossed hands 
once more weightless on his breast in the empty tent. 

“It was a doe,” he said. 

WILLIAM FAULKNER Before William Faulkner was born, in 
New Albany, Mississippi, on September 25, 1897, his family had 
already produced governors, statesmen, and politicians; and his great- 
grandfather, Colonel William C. Falkner (as the family name is some- 
times spelled), had written a best-selling novel, The White Rose of 
Memphis (1881). While Faulkner was still a child, the family moved 
about forty miles to the adjoining county seat, Oxford, where the Uni- 
versity of Mississippi is located. Here he attended the public schools 
but did not graduate from high school. In World War I he served in 
the Royal Air Force and was wounded in a plane accident in France. 
Returning to Oxford, he entered the University (as a veteran he was 
not required to have a high school diploma) but left without taking a 
degree. Like Theodore Dreiser and Erskine Caldwell, Faulkner has 

337 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


educated himself without benefit of much formal training. His wide 
miscellaneous reading is evident in his early writing, where echoes of 
authors new and old may be heard. Travel has also been part of Faulk- 
ner’s education as an author. In New Orleans he lived for a time with 
Sherwood Anderson; in New York he clerked for a few months in a 
bookstore. He has also been on a walking tour in Europe and has gone 
briefly to Hollywood to write for motion pictures. Yet, in his life as in 
his writing, he has remained identified with Oxford and the surround- 
ing country. The city cannot long take him from his plantation house. 
A visit to New York in the autumn of 1948 was his first in ten years. 
His international reputation was ^recognized in 1950, when “William 
Faulkner, Private Citizen,” as he has signed himself, received the 1949 
Nobel Prize for literature. 

Faulkner’s first book was a volume of poems, The Marble Faun^ 
published in 1924. It hardly suggests the power and strange beauty 
that have come to be associated with his writing. His first novel, Sol- 
diers^ Pay (1926), suggests both: it is a loosely constructed, multiple- 
emphasis story of a returning soldier, a book in which beauty is 
juxtaposed to “to-morrow and sweat ... sex and death and damna- 
tion.” Since 1926 Faulkner has published more than a dozen novels, of 
which the following are probably the most important: Sartoris (1929), 
dedicated to Sherwood Anderson, illustrates “the blind tragedy of hu- 
man events” in three generations of the Sartoris family; The Sound 
and the Fury (1929) is another story of family decay on much the 
same theme but more effective and artistic in its viewing life from 
several points of view, one of them that of an idiot; As 1 Lay Dying 
(1930) depicts the almost fanatical attempts of a family to transport 
the body of the wife and mother to a distant town for burial; Sanc- 
tuary (1931), perhaps the best known, is a powerful horror story in- 
cluding murders, rape, execution, lynching, ail serving to illustrate the 
mechanization and decay of society; Light in August (1932) is the 
odyssey of a pregnant woman loolang for her faithless lover; Pylon 
^ (1935) portrays barnstorming aviators and their mechanical existence; 
Absalom! Absalo77i! (1936) treats the theme of incest; Intruder in the 
Dust (1948) is a mystery story with overtones of racial and sectional 
conflict. In 1951 appeared Notes on a Horsethief, an excerpt from a 
novel on which Faulkner has been working for a number of years. 
Revealing the conflict between justice and law, particularly laws re- 
lating to property, it also supports Faulkner’s view that ordinary men 
can recognize and follow their sense of justice. Requiem for a Nun 
(1951) is a three-act drama, with long introductions to each act, in 
Faulkner’s allusive style. Temple Drake and Gowan Stevens, several 
years after the events of Sanctuary^ face a crisis when their younger 
child is murdered. Dramatically, convincingly, and poignantly the 

338 



DELTA AUTUMN 


book suggests, through the character of the self-sacrificing murderess, 
man’s need for belief. 

Faulkner has published about half as many volumes of short stories 
as novels. Of these, perhaps the best are These 13 (1931), Dr. Martino 
and Other Stories (1934), and Go Down, Moses (1942). Knighfs 
Gambit (1949), a volume of detective stories, is inferior to his earlier 
work. Collected Stories of William Faulkner (1950) is a representa- 
tive selection, excluding stories from his most recent volumes. 

His preference for living in Oxford, in a house over a century old, 
suggests two of the strongest emphases in Faulkner’s work: first, a love 
and understanding, although by no means always a glorification, of 
the past; and second, the effect of the past and its deep-rooted tradi- 
tions upon the characters he has created. His stories and novels are 
saturated with the quality of his native Mississippi (representative of 
the South), with its color, violence, conflicting aims, bygone prosper- 
ity, degeneration, and decay. Faulkner’s strong feeling for this heritage 
is transmitted so vividly that it takes on the power of myth — ^myth as 
vital, imaginative, and powerful as that found in ancient Greek drama. 
In his view, the present is the natural product of multiple influences 
from the past. It is significant that Faulkner in 1948 said that he now 
reads the “old books” — Don Quixote^ Moby Dicky The Nigger of the 
Narcissus, Dickens, Shakespeare — and has not read a novel by a con- 
temporary in the last fifteen years. 

Out of the past Faulkner has created or re-created the history of 
a place and a people. The place is an imaginary Yoknapatawpha 
County, Mississippi, the center of which is the town of Jefferson (Ox- 
ford); the people are all the varied groups in the history of that place 
— ^Indians, Negroes, and whites. They vary in stature from despicable 
and depraved to heroic and lovable. They often live lives of violence, 
of inner compulsion, as in a nightmare; an idiot may be as important 
a character as the most highly educated, sensitive, and discriminating 
man. Each character is separate and individual, often with a carefully 
elaborated personal and family history, but together they comprise the 
living history of the Deep South — they are the South as Faulkner sees 
it. His emphasis is not sociological; the legend or myth is founded on 
people as individuals. Faulkner has said: “I write about people. Maybe 
all sorts of symbols and images get in — ^I don’t know. When a good 
carpenter builds something, he puts the nails where they belong. 
Maybe they make a fancy pattern when he’s through, but that’s not 
why he put them that way.” Because the author knows his characters 
so well, knows their inner beings so thoroughly, they take on the char- 
acter of symbols.*^ Uncle Ike McCaslin, for example, is a believable 
character whom the reader of Faulkner has seen in various stories 
through youth (“The Bear”), manhood, and old age. He is one of the 

339 



WILLIAM FAULKNER 


people Fanlkner writes about; but he is also more than a character, for 
the “fancy pattern” of the carpenter’s nails does lead, as with many 
of Faulkner’s characters, to “all sorts of symbols and images.” 

Alfred Kazin has suggested the kinship of Faulkner to Walt Whit- 
man, Thoreau, Dreiser, Melville, and Hemingway, in that they all 
write out of a “great loneliness,” in which, he believes, there is also 
“something delusive and self-intoxicating and dangerously rhetorical.” 
As applied to Faulkner, the comment is suggestive, fdr his style has 
troubled many readers. It is varied and uneven, at times approaching 
the unintelligible, as when he uses the stream-of-consciousness tech- 
nique* in an intricate pattern. At its worst Faulkner’s style becomes 
turgid, abstruse, and involved; at its best it has a compelling quality 
and tremendous force. In general, his style is an integral part of the 
complex world he has created. 

“Delta Autumn” is taken from Go Down, Moses. 

Among the best critical essays the editors have found are Joseph W. 
Beach, American Fiction, 1920-1940 (1941), pp. 123-172; Malcolm 
Cowley, Introduction to The Portable Faulkner (1946); Maxwell 
Geismar, Writers in Crisis: The American Novel between Two Wars 
(1942), pp. 141-183; Delmore Schwartz, “The Fiction of William 
Faulkner,” Southern Review, vii (1941), 145-160. Longer studies are 
H. M. Campbell and R. E. Foster, William Faulkner: A Critical Ap- 
praisal (1951); Irving Howe, William Faulkner: A Critical Study 
(1952); Ward L. Miner, The World of William Faulkner (1952). A 
useful compilation is F. J. Hoffman and O. W. Vickery (eds.), Wil- 
liam Faulkner: Two Decades of Criticism (1951). 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

L Give a summary of the action of the story. 

2. Besides the action, this story contains certain comments on 
the nature of man. What are Faulkner’s views on this ^subject? How 
are these pertinent to the story? 

3. Does McCaslin seem true to life? Examine his language and 
ideas. Does he seem consistent in them? Is the conversation of the early 
part of the story natural to the circumstances, or does it seem rigged 
to the action that follows? This question introduces a more general 
one: How much can the material of a story be “arranged” before it 
ceases to be believable? Does Faulkner keep this story believable? 

4. Is the action melodramatic? (Melodrama results from an 
arrangement of the elements of action for sensational effect; it is 
drama for its own sake.) Does Faulkner try to keep the action from 
seeming melodramatic? If so, how? 

5. As suggested in the introduction to this story, Faulkner’s 


340 



delta autumn 


characters, although they exist primarily as individuals, often may be 
viewed as symbols — symbols of brutality, or humanity, or degenera- 
tion, or uncertainty, etc. If the characters in this story are symbols, 
what do you think each character symbolizes? Weigh your answer 
carefully. 

6. What appears to be the author’s attitude toward the changes 
that have taken place in the country since McCaslin’s youth? Are 
other changes desirable? Is a return to former practices and values de- 
sirable? Is such a return possible? Does Faulkner present such a return 
as possible? 

7. Is the artistic pattern suggested by Faulkner’s comment about 
the carpenter and his nails apparent here? Does the pattern seem to be 
consciously or unconsciously achieved? Is the stream-of-consciousness 
technique used? 

8. Compare the stories of Joyce and Faulkner as to unity of 
form, unity of impression upon the reader, and vocabulary. 


341 




TICKETS, PLEASE 

There is in the Midlands a 
single-line tramway system which boldly leaves the country town and 
plunges off into the black, industrial countryside, up hill and down 
dale, through the long, ugly villages of workmen’s houses, over canals 
and railways, past churches perched high and nobly over the smoke 
an,d shadows, through stark, grimy, cold little market-places, tilting 
away in a rush past cinemas and shops down to the hollow where the 
collieries are, then up again, past a little rural church, under the ash 
trees, on in a rush to the terminus, the last little ugly place of industry, 
the cold little town that shivers on the edge of the wild, gloomy 
country beyond. There the green and creamy coloured tram-car 
seems to pause and purr with curious satisfaction. But in a few minutes 
— ^the clock on the turret of the Cooperative Wholesale Society’s 
Shops gives the time — away it starts once more on the adventure. 
Again there are the reckless swoops down hill, bouncing the loops: 
again the chilly wait in the hill-top market-place: again the breathless 
slitheting round the precipitous drop under the church; again the pa- 
tient halts at the loops, waiting for the outcoming car: so on and on, 
for two long hours, till at last the city looms beyond the fat 
gas-works, the narrow factories draw near, we are in the sordid 
streets of the great town, once more we sidle to a standstill at our ter- 
minus, abashed by the great crimson and cream-coloured city cars, 
but still perky, jaunty, somewhat daredevil, green as a jaunty sprig of 
parsley out of a black colliery garden. 

From The Fonable D, H, Lawrence, copyright, 1922 , by Thomas Seltzer, 
Inc., 1950 , by Frieda Lawrence. Reprinted by permission of The Viking 
Press, Inc., New York. 

342 



TICKETS, PLEASE 


To ride on these cars is always an adventure. Since we are in war- 
time, the drivers are men unfit for active service: cripples and hunch- 
backs. So they have the spirit of the devil in them. The ride becomes 
a steeple-chase. Hurray! we have leapt in a clear jump over the canal 
bridges — ^now for the four-lane corner. With a shriek and a trail of 
sparks we are clear again. To be sure, a tram often leaps the rails — but 
what matter! It sits in a ditch till other trams come to haul it out. It m 
quite common for a car, packed with one solid mass of living people, 
to come to a dead halt in the midst of unbroken blackness, the heart 
of nowhere on a dark night, and for the driver and the girl conductor 
to call, ‘‘All get off — car’s on fire!” Instead, however, of rushing out 
in a panic, the passengers stolidly reply: “Get on — get on! We’re not 
coming out. We’re stopping where we are. Push on, George.” So till 
flames actually appear. 

The reason for this reluctance to dismount is that the nights are 
howlingly cold, black, and windswept, and a car is a haven of refuge. 
From village to village the miners travel, for a change of cinema, of 
girl, of pub. The trams are desperately packed. Who is going to risk 
himself in the black gulf outside, to wait perhaps an hour for another 
tram, then to see the forlorn notice “Depot Only,” because there is 
something wrong! or to greet a unit of three bright cars all so tight 
with people that they sail past with a howl of derision. Trams that 
pass in the night. 

This, the most dangerous tram-service in England, as the authorities 
themselves declare, with pride, is entirely conducted by girls, and 
driven by rash young men, a little crippled, or by delicate young men, 
who creep forward in terror. The girls are fearless young hussies. In 
their ugly blue uniform, skirts up to their knees, shapeless old peaked 
caps on their heads, they have all the sang-froid of an old non-com- 
missioned officer. With a tram packed -with howling colliers, roaring 
hymns downstairs and a sort of antiphony of obscenities upstairs, the 
lasses are perfectly at their ease. They pounce on the youths who try 
to evade their ticket-machine. They push off the men at the end of 
their distance. They are not going to be done in the eye — ^not they. 
They fear nobody — ^and everybody fears them. 

“HeUo, Anniel” 

“Hello, Ted!” 


343 



D. H. LAWRENCE 


“Oh, mind my com, Miss Stone. It’s my belief you’ve got a heart of 
stone, for you’ve trod on it again.” 

“You should keep it in your pocket,” replies Miss Stone, and she 
goes sturdily upstairs in her high boots. 

“Tickets, please.” 

She is peremptory, suspicious, and ready to hit first. She can hold 
her own against ten thousand. The step of that tram-car is her Ther- 
mopylae. 

Therefore, there is a certain wild romance aboard these cars — and 
in the sturdy bosom of Annie herself. The time for soft romance is in 
the morning, between ten o’clock and one, when things are rather 
slack: that is, except market-day and Saturday. Thus Annie has time 
to look about her. Then she often hops off her car and into a shop 
where she has spied something, while the driver chats in the main 
road. There is very good feeling between the girls and the drivers. 
Are they not companions in peril, shipments aboard this careering 
vessel of ‘a tram-car, for ever rocking on the waves of a stormy land.^ 

Then, also, during the easy hours, the inspectors are most in evi- 
dence. For some reason, everybody employed in this tram-service is 
young: there are no grey heads. It would not do. Therefore the in- 
spectors are of the right age, and one, the chief, is also good-looking. 
See him stand on a wet, gloomy morning, in his long oil-skin, his 
peaked cap well down over his eyes, waiting to board a car. His face 
is ruddy, his small brown moustache is weathered, he has a faint im- 
pudent smile. Fairly tall and agile, even in his waterproof, he springs 
aboard a car and greets Annie. 

“Hello, Annie! Keeping the wet out?” 

“Trying to.” 

There are only two people in the car. Inspecting is soon over. Then 
for a long and impudent chat on the footboard, a good, easy, twelve- 
mile chat. 

The inspector’s name is John Thomas Raynor — always called John 
Thomas, except sometimes, in malice, Coddy. His face sets in fury 
when he is addressed, from a distance, with this abbreviation. There 
is considerable scandal about John Thomas in half a dozen villages. 
He flirts with the girl conductors in the morning, and walks out 
with them in the dark night, when they leave their tram-car at the 

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depot. Of course, the girls quit the service frequently. Then he flirts 
and walks out with the newcomer: always providing she is sufliciently 
attractive, and that she will consent to walk. It is remarkable, how- 
ever, that most of the girls are quite comely, they are all young, and 
this roving life aboard the car gives them a sailor’s dash and reckless- 
ness. What matter how they behave when the ship is in port? To-mor- 
row they will be aboard again. 

Annie, however, was something of a Tartar, and her sharp tongue 
had kept John Thomas at arm’s length for many months. Perhaps, 
therefore, she liked him all the more: for he always came up smiling, 
with impudence. She watched him vanquish one girl, then another. 
She could tell by the movement of his mouth and eyes, when he 
flirted with her in the morning, that he had been walking out with 
this lass, or the other, the night before. A fine cock-of-the-walk he 
was. She could sum him up pretty well. 

In this subtle antagonism they knew each other like old friends, 
they were as shrewd with one another almost as man and wife. But 
Annie had always kept him sufliciently at arm’s length. Besides, she 
had a boy of her own. 

The Statutes fair, however, came in November, at Bestwood. It 
happened that Annie had the Monday night off. It was a drizzling 
ugly night, yet she dressed herself up and went to the fair ground. 
She was alone, but she expected soon to find a pal of some sort. 

The roundabouts were veering round and grinding out their music, 
the side shows were making as much commotion as possible. In the 
cocoanut shies there were no cocoanuts, but artificial war-time sub- 
stitutes, which the lads declared were fastened into the irons. There 
was a sad decline in brilliance and luxury. None the less, the ground 
was muddy as ever, there was the same crush, the press of faces 
lighted up by the flares and the electric lights, the same smell of naph- 
tha and a few fried potatoes, and of electricity. 

Who should be the first to greet Miss Annie, on the show ground, 
but John Thomas. He had a black overcoat buttoned up to his chin, 
and a tweed cap pulled down over his brows, his face between was 
ruddy and smiling and handy as ever. She knew so well the way his 
mouth moved. 

She was very glad to have a “boy.” To be at the Statutes without 

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D. H. LAWRENCE 


a fellow was no fnn. Instantly, like the gallant he was, he took her on 
the Dragons, grim-toothed, round-about switchbacks. It was not 
nearly so exciting as the tram-car, actually. But, then, to be seated 
in a shaking green dragon, uplifted above the sea of bubble faces, ca- 
reering in a rickety fashion in the lower heavens, whilst John Thomas 
leaned over her, his cigarette in his mouth, was after all the right 
style. She was a plump, quick, alive little creature. So she was quite 
excited and happy. 

John Thomas made her stay on for the next round. And therefore 
she could hardly for shame repulse him when he put his arm round 
her and drew her a little nearer to him, in a very warm and cuddly 
manner. Besides, he was fairly discreet, he kept his movement as hid- 
den as possible. She looked down, and saw that his red, clean hand was 
out of sight of the crowd. And they knew each other so well. So they 
warmed up to the fair. 

After the Dragons they went on the horses. John Thomas paid each 
time, so she could but be complaisant. He, of course, sat astride on 
the outer horse — named “Black Bess” — and she sat sideways, to- 
wards him, on the inner horse — ^named “Wildfire.” But of course John 
Thomas was not going to sit discreetly on “Black Bess,” holding the 
brass bar. Round they spun and heaved, in the light. And round he 
swung on his wooden steed, flinging one leg across her mount, and 
perilously tipping up and down, across the space, half lying back, 
laughing at her. He was perfectly happy; she was afraid her hat was 
on one side, but she was excited. 

He threw quoits on a table, and won for her two large, pale-blue 
hat-pins. And then, hearing the noise of the cinemas, announcing an- 
other performance, they climbed the boards and went in. 

Of course, during these performances pitch darkness falls from 
time to time, when the machine goes wrong. Then there is a wild 
whooping, and a loud smacking of simulated kisses. In these moments 
John Thomas drew Annie towards him. After all, he had a wonder- 
fully w^arm, cosy way of holding a girl with his arm, he seemed to 
make such a nice fit. And after all, it was pleasant to be so held: so 
very comforting and cosy and nice. He leaned over her and she felt 
his breath on her hair; she knew he wanted to kiss her on the lips. 

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And after all, he was so warm and she fitted in to him so softly. After 
all, she wanted him to touch her lips. 

But the light sprang up; she also started electrically, and put her 
hat straight. He left his arm lying nonchalantly behind her. Well, it 
was fun, it was exciting to be at the Statutes with John Thomas. 

When the cinema was over they went for a walk across the dark, 
damp fields. He had ail the arts of love-making. He was especially 
good at holding a girl, when he sat with her on a stile in the black, 
drizzling darkness. He seemed to be holding her in space, against his 
own warmth and gratification. And his kisses were soft and slow and 
searching. 

So Annie walked out with John Thomas, though she kept her 
own boy dangling in the distance. Some of the tram-girls chose to 
be huffy. But there, you must take things as you find them, in this life. 

There was no mistake about it, Annie liked John Thomas a good 
deal. She felt so rich and warm in herself whenever he was near. And 
John Thomas really liked Annie, more than usual. The soft, melting 
way in which she could fiow into a fellow, as if she melted into his 
very bones, was something rare and good. He fully appreciated this. 

But with a developing acquaintance there began a developing in- 
timacy. Annie wanted to consider him a person, a man; she wanted to 
take an intelligent interest in him, and to have an intelligent response. 
She did not want a mere nocturnal presence, which was what he was 
so far. And she prided herself that he could not leave her. 

Here she made a mistake. John Thomas intended to remain a noc- 
turnal presence; he had no idea of becoming an all-round individual 
to her. When she started to take an intelligent interest in him and his 
life and his character, he sheered off. He hated intelligent interest. 
And he knew that the only way to stop it was to avoid it. The pos- 
sessive female was aroused in Annie. So he left her. 

It is no use saying she was not surprised. She was at first startled, 
thrown out of her count. For she had been so very sure of holding 
him. For a while she was staggered, and everything became uncertain 
to her. Then she wept with fury, indignation, desolation, and misery. 
Then she had a spasm of despair. And then, when he came, still im- 
pudently, on to her car, still familiar, but letting her see by the move- 

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D. H. LAWRENCE 


merit of his head that he had gone away to somebody else for the time 
being, and was enjoying pastures new, then she determined to have 
her own back. 

She had a very shrewd idea what girls John Thomas had taken out. 
She went to Nora Purdy, Nora was a tall, rather pale, but well-built 
girl, with beautiful yellow hair. She was rather secretive. 

“Hey!” said Annie, accosting her; then softly, “Who’s John Thomas 
on with now? ” 

“I don’t know,” said Nora. 

“Why tha does,” said Annie, ironically lapsing into dialect. “Tha 
knows as well as I do.” 

“Well, I do, then,” said Nora. “It isn’t me, so don’t bother.” 

“It’s Cissy Meakin, isn’t it?” 

“It is, for all I know.” 

“Hasn’t he got a face on him!” said Annie. “I don’t half like ’his 
cheek. I could knock him off the footboard when he comes round at 
me. 

“He’ll get dropped-on one of these days,” said Nora. 

“Ay, he will when somebody makes up their mind to drop it on 
him. I should like to see him taken down a peg or two, shouldn’t 
you?” 

“I shouldn’t mind,” said Nora. 

“You’ve got quite as much cause to as I have,” said Annie. “But 
we’ll drop on him one of these days, my girl. What? Don’t you want ' 
to?” 

“I don’t mind,” said Nora. 

But as a matter of fact, Nora was much more vindictive than Annie. 

One by one Annie went the round of the old flames. It so happened 
that Cissy Mealdn left the tramway service in quite a short time. Her 
mother made her leave. Then John Thomas was on the qui-vive. He 
cast his eyes over his old flock. And his eyes lighted on Annie. He 
thought she would be safe now. Besides, he liked her. 

She arranged to walk home with him on Sunday night. It so hap- 
pened that her car would be in the depot at half-past nine: the last 
car would come in at 10.15. So John Thomas was to wait for her 
there. 

At the depot the girls had a little waiting-room of their own. It was 

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quite rough, but cosy, with a fire and an oven and a mirror, and table 
and wooden chairs. The half dozen girls who knew John Thomas 
only too well had arranged to take service this Sunday afternoon. So, 
as the cars began to come in, early, the girls dropped into the waiting- 
room. And instead of hurrying oif home, they sat around the fire and 
had a cup of tea. Outside was the darkness and lawlessness of war- 
time. 

John Thomas came on the car after Annie, at about a quarter to 
ten. He poked his head easily into the girls’ waiting-room. 

“Prayer-meeting?” he asked. 

“Ay,” said Laura Sharp. “Ladies only.” 

“That’s mel” said John Thomas. It was or\e of his favourite excla- 
mations. 

“Shut the door, boy,” said Muriel Baggaley. 

“On which side of me?” said John Thomas. 

“Which tha likes,” said Polly Birkin. 

He had come in and closed the door behind him. The girls moved 
in their circle, to make a place for him near the fire. He took off his 
great-coat and pushed back his hat. 

“Who handles the teapot?” he said. 

Nora Purdy silently poured him out a cup of tea. 

“Want a bit o’ my bread and drippin’?” said Muriel Baggaley to 
him. 

“Ay, give us a bit.” 

And he began to eat his piece of bread. 

“There’s no place like home, girls,” he said. 

They all looked at him as he uttered this piece of impudence. He 
seemed to be sunning himself in the presence of so many damsels. 

“Especially if you’re not afraid to go home in the dark,” said Laura 
Sharp. 

“Mel By myself I am.” 

They sat still till they heard the last tram come in. In a few min- 
utes Emma Houselay entered. 

“Come on, my old duck!” cried Polly Birkin. 

“It is perishing,” said Emma, holding her fingers to the fire. 

“But — ^I’m afraid to, go home in, the dark,” sang Laura Sharp, the 
tune having got into her mind. 


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D. H. LAWRENCE 


“Who’re you going with to-night, John Thomas?” asked Muriel 
Baggaiey, coolly. 

“To-night?” said John Thomas. “Oh, Tm going home by myself 
to-night — all on my lonely-O.” 

“That’s me!” said Nora Purdy, using his own ejaculation. 

The girls laughed shrilly. 

“Me as well, Nora,” said John Thomas. 

“Don’t know what you mean,” said Laura. 

“Yes, I’m toddling,” said he, rising and reaching for his overcoat. 

“Nay,” said Polly. “We’re all here waiting for you.” 

“We’ve got to be up in good time in the morning,” he said, in the 
benevolent official manner. 

They all laughed. 

“Nay,” said Muriel. “Don’t leave us all lonely, John Thomas. Take 
one!” 

“rU take the lot, if you like,” he responded, gallantly. 

“That you won’t, either,” said Muriel. “Two’s company; seven’s 
too much of a good thing.” 

“Nay — take one,” said Laura. “Fair and square, all above board, and 
say which.” 

“Ay,” cried Annie, speaking for the first time. “Pick, John Thomas; 
let’s hear thee.” 

“Nay,” he said. “Fm going home quiet to-night. Feeling good, for 
once.” 

“Whereabouts?” said Annie. “Take a good un, then. But tha’s got to 
take one of us!” 

“Nay, how can I take one,” he said, laughing uneasily. “I don’t want 
to make enemies.” 

“You’d only make said Annie. 

“The chosen added Laura. 

“Oh, my! Who said girls!” exclaimed John Thomas, again turning, 
as if to escape. “Weil — ^good-night.” 

“Nay, you’ve got to make your pick,” said Muriel “Turn your face 
to the w’ali, and say which one touches you. Go on — ^we shall only 
just touch your back — one of us. Go on — ^turn your face to the wall, 
and don’t look, and say which one touches you.” 

He was uneasy, mistrusting them. Yet he had not the courage to 

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break away. They pushed him to a wall and stood him there with 
his face to it. Behind his back they all grimaced, tittering. He looked 
so comical. He looked around uneasily. 

“Go on!” he cried. 

“You’re looking— you’re looking!” they shouted. 

He turned his head away. And suddenly, with a movement like a 
swift cat, Annie went forward and fetched him a box on the side of 
the head that sent his cap flying, and himself staggering., He started 
round. 

But at Annie’s signal they all flew at him, slapping him, pinching 
him, pulling his hair, though more in fun than in spite or anger. He, 
however, saw red. His blue eyes flamed with strange fear as well as 
fury, and he butted through the girls to the door. It was locked. He 
wrenched at it. Roused, alert, the girls stood round and looked at 
him. He faced them, at bay. At that moment they were rather hor- 
rifying to him, as they stood in their short uniforms. He was dis- 
tinctly afraid. 

“Come on, John Thomas! Come on! Choose!” said Annie. 

“What are you after? Open the door,” he said. 

“We sha’n’t — ^not till you’ve chosen!” said Muriel. 

“Chosen what?” he said, 

“Chosen the one you’re going to marry,” she replied. 

He hesitated a moment. 

“Open the blasted door,” he said, “and get back to your senses.” 
He spoke with ofScial authority. 

“You’ve got to choose!” cried the girls. 

“Come on!” cried Annie, looking him in the eye. “Come on! Come 
on!” 

He went forward, rather vaguely. She had taken o:ff her belt, and 
swinging it, she fetched him a sharp blow over the head with the 
buckle end. He sprang and seized her. But immediately the other girls 
^ rushed upon him, pulling and tearing and beating him. Their blood 
was now thoroughly up. He was their sport now. They were going to 
have their own back, out of him. Strange, wild creatures, they hung 
on him and rushed at him to bear him down. His tunic was torn right 
up the back, Nora had hold at the back of his collar, and was ac- 
tually strangling him. Luckily the button burst. He struggled in a 

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D. H. LAWRENCE 


wild frenzy of fury and terror, almost mad terror. His tunic was sim- 
ply tom off his back, his shirt-sleeves were tom away, his arms were 
naked. The girls mshed at him, clenched their hands on him and 
pulled at him: or they rushed at him and pushed him, butted him 
with all their might: or they struck him wild blows. He ducked and 
cringed and struck sideways. They became more intense. 

At last he was down. They rushed on him, kneeling on him. He 
had neither breath nor strength to move. His face was bleeding with 
a long scratch, his brow was bruised. 

Annie knelt on him, the other girls knelt and hung on to him. Their 
faces were flushed, their hair wild, their eyes were all glittering 
strangely. He lay at last quite still, with face averted, as an animal 
lies when it is defeated and at the mercy of the captor. Sometimes his 
eye glanced back at the wild faces of the girls. His breast rose heav- 
ily, his wrists were tom. 

‘TSfow, then, my fellow!” gasped Annie at length, “Now then — 
now — 

At the sound of her terrifying, cold triumph, he suddenly started 
to struggle as an animal might, but the girls threw themselves upon 
him with unnatural strength and power, forcing him down. 

“Yes — ^now, then!” gasped Annie at length. 

And there was a dead silence, in which the thud of heart-beating 
was to be heard. It was a suspense of pure silence in every soul. 

“Now you know where you are,” said Annie. 

The sight of his white, bare arm maddened the girls. He lay in a 
kind of trance of fear and antagonism. They felt themselves filled 
with supernatural strength. 

Suddenly Polly started to laugh — to giggle wildly — ^helplessly — 
and Emma and Muriel joined in. But Annie and Nora and Laura re- 
mained the same, tense, watchful, with gleaming eyes. He winced 
away from these eyes. 

“Yes,” said Annie, in a curious low tone, secret and deadly. “Yes! 
YouVe got it now! You know what youVe done, don’t you? You 
know what youVe done.” 

He made no sound nor sign, but lay with bright, averted eyes, and 
averted, bleeding face. 

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“You ought to be killedy that’s what you ought,” said Annie, 
tensely. “You ought to be killedJ^ And there was a terrifying lust in 
her voice. 

Polly was ceasing to laugh, and giving long-drawn Oh-h-hs and 
sighs as she came to herself. 

“He’s got to choose,” she said vaguely. 

“Oh, yes, he has,” said Laura, with vindictive decision. 

“Do you hear — do you hear?” said Annie. And with a sharp move- 
ment, that made him wince, she turned his face to her. 

“Do you hear?” she repeated, shaking him. 

But he was quite dumb. She fetched him a sharp slap on the face. 
He started, and his eyes widened. Then his face darkened with de- 
fiance, after all. 

“Do you hear?” she repeated. 

He only looked at her with hostile eyes. 

“Speak!” she said, putting her face devilishly near his. 

“What?” he said, almost overcome. 

“You’ve got to chooser she cried, as if it were some terrible men- 
ace, and as if it hurt her that she could not exact more. 

“What?” he said, in fear. 

“Choose your girl, Coddy. You’ve got to choose her now. And 
you’ll get your neck broken if you play any more of your tricks, my 
boy. You’re settled now.” 

There was a pause. Again he averted his face. He was cunning in 
his overthrow. He did not give in to them really — ^no, not if they tore 
him to bits. 

“All right, then,” he said, “I choose Annie.” His voice was strange 
and full of malice. Annie let go of him as if he had been a hot coal. 

“He’s chosen Annie!” said the girls in chorus. 

“Me!” cried Annie. She was still kneeling, but away from him. He 
was still lying prostrate, with averted face. The girls grouped un- 
easily around. 

“Me!” repeated Annie, with a terrible bitter accent. 

Then she got up, drawing away from him with strange disgust and 
bitterness. 

“I wouldn’t touch him,” she said. 


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D. H. LAWRENCE 


But her face quivered with a kind of agony, she seemed as if she 
would fall The other girls turned aside. He remained lying on the 
floor, with his torn clothes and bleeding, averted face. 

'‘Oh, if he’s chosen — ” said Polly. 

“I don’t want him — he can choose again,” said Annie, with the same 
rather bitter hopelessness. 

“Get up,” said Polly, lifting his shoulder. “Get up.” 

He rose slowly, a strange, ragged, dazed creature. The girls eyed 
him from a distance, curiously, furtively, dangerously. 

“Who wants him?” cried Laura, roughly. 

“Nobody,” they answered, with contempt. Yet each one of them 
waited for him to look at her, hoped he would look at her. All except 
Annie, and something was broken in her. 

He, however, kept his face closed and averted from them all. There 
was a silence of the end. He picked up the torn pieces of his tunic, 
without knowing what to do with them. The girls stood about un- 
easily, flushed, panting, tidying their hair and their dress uncon- 
sciously, and watching him. He looked at none of them. He espied 
his cap in a corner, and w’ent and picked it up. He put it on his head, 
and one of the girls burst into a shrill, hysteric laugh at the sight he 
presented. He, however, took no heed, but went straight to where his 
overcoat hung on a peg. The girls moved away from contact with him 
as if he had been an electric wire. He put on his coat and buttoned 
it down. Then he rolled his tunic-rags into a bundle, and stood be- 
fore the locked door, dumbly. 

“Open the door, somebody,” said Laura. 

“Annie’s got the key,” said one. 

Annie silently offered the key to the girls. Nora unlocked the door. 

“Tit for tat, old man,” she said. “Show yourself a man, and don’t 
bear a grudge.” 

But without a word or sign he had opened the door and gone, his 
face closed, his head dropped. 

“That’ll learn him,” said Laura. 

“Coddy!” said Nora. 

“Shut up, for God’s sake!” cried Annie fiercely, as if in torture. 

“Well, I’m ready to go, Polly. Look sharp!” said Muriel. 

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The girls were anxious to be off. They were tidying themselves 
hurriedly, with mute, stupefied faces. 


D. H. LAWRENCE David Herbert Lawrence was born on Sep- 
tember 11, 1885, in Eastwood, a small coal-mining village near Not- 
tingham, England. The most important influence in his life was his 
relationship to his parents, particularly to his mother. She was a 
woman of intelligence, vigorous will, and some culture, who, without 
realizing that she was doing it, won the affection of her son too com- 
pletely for his own good. She had married a coal miner, handsome, 
ignorant, and easy-going, a man who lived entirely by impulses and 
intuitions, not by ideas. They were unhappy. It was natural that in her 
incompatibility with her husband she should lavish love upon her chil- 
dren and that they should respond. Lawrence seems never to have 
been able to escape from the claims upon his loyalty and devotion 
which his mother established in her unhappiness. Even after she died, 
even after he married, the ties which bound him to her refused to dis- 
solve completely. Indeed, as he matured and learned at least partially 
the nature of his terrible bondage, he rejected the cool, mental type 
of personality which his mother represented and became a propagan- 
dist for a mindless life, which was to some extent like that of his father. 
But still he struggled in vain to achieve a sufficient psychological 
independence of the maternal influence: he could never completely ac- 
cept another woman into his life; he was highly introspective. He was 
a tormented soul; but his torment sharpened his insights and helped 
him to develop an original interpretation of the issues of life. He told 
the story of the beginnings of his difiiculties in one of his finest novels, 
Sons and Lovers, 

Lawrence attended Nottingham high school on a scholarship until 
he was sixteen. He continued his education by becoming a pttpil- 
teacher, under a British system for the in-service training of teachers, 
and when he was twenty-one entered the Teachers’ Training De- 
partment of Nottingham University College, where he remained for 
two years. In the summer after he left the high school, he met and fell 
in love with the girl who appears as Miriam in Sons and Lovers, She 
was his companion and friend; she listened to his youthful ideas; she 
encouraged his writing; she sent several of his early poems to a pub- 
lisher in 1909 and thus led him into print. But in the end Lawrence 
rejected her. In an unconsciously symbolic act, when the publisher sent 
an encouraging letter about the poems, Lawrence took it from her 
and bpre it in triumph to his mother. 

In the autumn of 1908 he became a teacher in a school near London. 

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D. H. LAWRENCE 


In 1911 he published his first novel, The White Peacock, A prelimi- 
nary copy was run off late in 1910 so that his mother, who was dying 
of cancer, might see it. The success of the book was very modest 
indeed, but Lawrence a year later resigned his teaching post and began 
a life-long career as a professional writer. 

In 1912 he met Frieda von Richthofen, then the wife of Professor 
Ernest Weekley, of Nottingham. He and Frieda quickly fell in loVe 
and within a few weeks eloped. They were married in the summer of 
1914, as soon as she had been divorced, and remained together until 
his death. 

World War I was a personal calamity to Lawrence. He and his Ger- 
man wife were wrongly suspected of disloyalty. He was repeatedly 
called up for examination for military service, though his lungs were 
in such condition as to lead to his rejection. He found the interference 
of the authorities in his affairs intolerable. 

As soon as the war was over he began a futile flight from his envi- 
ronment. He and Frieda girdled the world; they went to Sicily, to 
Ceylon, to Australia, to New Mexico, to old Mexico. Everywhere 
Lawrence’s search was the same: he sought a different kind of world, 
perhaps the remnants of a world older than the Flood, in which he 
could unite himself with men to whom mind was foreign and whose 
gods spoke in the fecund darkness of the human unconscious. He never 
found what he wanted and remained a wanderer over the earth until 
his death from tuberculosis in Vence, France, on March 2, 1930. 

Lawrence’s interpretation of life is highly personal; the issues about 
which conflict develops within or between his characters are issues 
which most writers either did not perceive or expressed in different 
terms. Lawrence is not, however, the less informative and illuminating 
for being original — at least not to those readers who are willing to lay 
aside their preconceptions about what characters in stories ought to 
do and to consider with open minds Lawrence’s fresh representation. 

To Lawrence the principal conflict in human beings is between their 
need to preserve themselves as complete, independent individuals and 
their need to relate themselves in some way to the whole of creation: 
to other people, to animals, to the sun and the stars. It is no wonder 
that Lawrence writes a great deal about sex, for it is in the adjustment 
of the sexes to each other that this conflict reaches its most dramatic 
proportions. How are even lovers ideally adapted to one another to 
blend without losing their individualities, a loss which is psychic 
death? This question presupposes two honest, uninhibited lovers. The 
whole matter, however, becomes much more complicated when one 
considers that between the partners in any courtship or union there 
are varying degrees of independence, fear, selfishness, need to possess 
or be possessed, and ignorance of life. But the basic problem is hot 

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confined to such relationships, even though they are perhaps the most 
important; it extends everywhere. Every man’s soul is at the same time 
an independent unit and a part — an important part — of the cosmos. If 
it is to live fully, it must in some measure share in the life of the whole, 
while at the same time it lives to itself. Here is a mystery with which 
Lawrence wrestles endlessly. It seems to him that most people have 
given up; they are not even conscious of the dual needs of their na- 
ture; they have quit living and now only think. 

Thought, to Lawrence, is very literally a means of accomplishing 
the death of the soul. None of the important questions of life can be 
answered by thinking about them. Man has developed the power of 
thought in order to be able to take care of the practical details of life, 
to be able to balance the bankbook and stay out of the way of auto- 
mobiles. The mind simply does not touch the needs of the spirit. To 
think about these is to cease to live and instead to think about living. 
Fortunately, however, a human being has several levels of conscious- 
ness below that upon which thought exists. It is here, within the vari- 
ous strata of the unconscious, that solutions and promptings to proper 
acts originate; here is the true seat of vitality itself. The art of living 
well consists of learning to hear the voices of the dark gods — perhaps 
of God — ^who speak through the unconscious mind. A person’s acts 
must be really his, in the sense that they represent his true inner — and 
unconscious — nature, not his logical opinions. 

Lawrence owes his greatness as a writer of fiction in part to the 
freshness and, in the opinion of many, the significance of the interpre- 
tation of life which he developed; but having a philosophy does not 
alone make anyone a creative writer. Lawrence was very perceptive, 
and intuitively understood human beings. He easily grasped and mter- 
preted broad aspects of character, but he was also able to discern and 
represent a variety of obscure impulses which do exist in people. He 
was not always successful, however, in representing them without ex- 
aggeration, an exaggeration which frequently distorts his world. He 
propagandized in favor of the life based upon impulses and intuitions, 
with the result that characters whp have learned to live properly, as 
he conceived of living, or who momentarily escape from the trammels 
of thought and convention, appear in his works in numbers wholly 
out of proportion to their numbers in real life. This fact, too, unhap- 
pily, lends to some of his stories an air of unreality. The intelligent 
reader will understand what is happening and make proper allowance. 

The style of the mature Lawrence is downright folksy. It is the style 
of a man communicating intimately with a reader who stands in his 
very presence: it is loose, repetitious, very direct, frequently argu- 
mentative. But for all their looseness, his sentences develop an insinuat- 
ing rhythm, and his repetitions at their best are like recurring themes 

357 



D. H. LAWRENCE 


in music. It is the style of an honest, earnest artist, who puts on no airs. 

Lawrence’s output was enormous. His first novels, The White Pea- 
cock (1911), The Trespasser (1912), and Sons and Lovers (1913), 
show the germs of his mature attitudes, but were written before his 
philosophy had really developed. The Rainbow (1915), Women in 
Love (1920), Aaron's Rod (1922), and The Plumed Serpent (1926), 
are the finest novels of his ripe years, but cannot be read with complete 
understanding by anyone who is ignorant of their author’s esoteric 
attitudes. The Lost Girl (1920) concerns an English girl who falls in 
love with a suitably mindless Italian peasant. Kangaroo (1923) and 
The Boy in the Bush (1924, written with M. L. Skinner) are fruits 
of his residence in Australia. Lady Chatterley^s Lover (1928) is a beau- 
tiful, tender, and utterly frank love story, the last long novel which 
Lawrence wrote and the one in which he airs most completely his sex- 
ual theories. He did not intend it to be pornographic, but it is. It has 
been banned in both England and the United States.f St, Mawr (1925), 
The Escaped Cock (1929), and The Virgm aiid the Gypsy (1930) 
are short novels. His volumes of short stories are The Prussian Officer 
(1914), Englandy My England (1922), The Captain^s Doll (1923), 
Glad Ghosts (1926), The Woman Who Rode Away (1928), The 
Lovely Lady (1933), Love among the Haystacks (1933), and A Mod- 
ern Lover (1934). A collection containing all the stories printed from 
1914 to 1931, The Tales of D, H, Lawrence, appeared in 1934. He also 
wrote a great deal of very good poetry, a few dramas, and many vol- 
umes of essays. 

‘‘Tickets, Please” appeared in England, My England, 

Few twentieth-century writers have been the object of so much 
critical attention as Lawrence. William Y. Tindall is the author of an 
excellent study, D. H, Lawrence and Susan His Cow (1939). John 
Middleton Murry, in an elaborate work, Son of Woman (1931), has 
attempted to explain Lawrence’s psychology and relate it to his work. 
Three informative biographies are Hugh Kingsmill, Life of D. H. 
Lawrence (1938); Richard Aldington, D. H, Lawrence: Portrait of 
a Ge^iius But , . . (1950); and Harry T. Moore, The Life and Works 
of D, H. Lawrence (1951). Various memoirs have appeared, the most 
interesting of which are Frieda Lawrence, ‘Wof / but the Wind , . 
(1934); and E. T. (who appears as Miriam in Sons and Lovers), D, H, 
Lawrence: A Personal Record (1936). Among the most informative 
brief studies are Frederick J. Hoffman, “From Surrealism to the Apoc- 

t Lawrence^ frequently wrote several drafts of a story. Three of Lady 
Chatterley exist. The third in order of composition was the one first pub- 
lished, the one now known as Lady Chatterley^s Lover, The second remains 
in manuscript. The first was published in 1944 as The First Lady Chatterley, 
k is much less objectionable than the first published version. 

358 



tickets, please 


aiypse: A Development in Twentieth Century Irrationalism,” English 
Literary History, xv (1948), 147-165; Dayton Kohler, “D. H. Law- 
rence,” Sewanee Review, xxxix (1931), 25-38; Diana Trilling, Intro- 
duction to The Portable D. H. Lawrence (1947), pp. 1-32; and Max 
Wildi, “The Birth of Expressionism in the Works of D. H. Lawrence,” 
English Studies, xix (1937), ^41-259. 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Why, in your opinion, did Lawrence choose as central char- 
acters girls who were doing what would normally be men’s work? 
Does the fact that the country is at war make the story more credible 
than it would otherwise be? 

2. Are the antagonists in the story John Thomas and Annie, or 
John Thomas and the entire group of girls? How well are John 
Thomas and Annie individualized as characters? Might one call the 
story a study in mass, rather than individual, psychology? 

3. Do Annie and the girls plan the physical assault upon John 
Thomas? Trace carefully the steps by which it develops, and notice 
the changes in mood on the part of the girls. Why do they ask him to 
choose one of them? Do they imagine that one of them could gain any 
advantage from his choice? Do their motives lie on a level of con- 
sciousness below that of rational thought? Do you think that Law- 
rence would have approved of this attack? 

4. Why does John Thomas select Annie? Why does his choice 
deflate her? 

5. Has Lawrence caught a mood which might actually develop 
among such a group of girls? Do you think that his interpretation of 
the characters and events is in general too subjective?* Answer as yon 
choose, but if you answer affirmatively, decide whether his subjectiv- 
ity seriously injures the psychological analysis in the story and justify 
your decision. 

6. For the most part Lawrence generalizes, implies that the 
events he mentions are significant simply because they are typical, in 
the early part of the story; and only one scene is ever treated in much 
detail. Discuss this aspect of his technique. What advantages does the 
generalizing method offer him? Might such a method of procedure 
perhaps injure a story in any way? Why does he alter his method at 
the climax? 


359 




MISS FURR AND MISS SKEENE 

Helen Furr had quite a pleasant home. Mrs. 
Furr was quite a pleasant woman. Mr. Furr was quite a pleasant man. 
Helen Furr had quite a pleasant voice a voice quite worth cultivating. 
She did not mind working. She worked to cultivate her voice. She 
did not find it gay living in the same place where she had always been 
living. She went to a place where some were cultivating something, 
voices and other things needing cultivating. She met Georgine Skeene 
there who was cultivating her voice which some thought was quite 
a pleasant one. Helen Furr and Georgine Skeene lived together then. 
Georgine Skeene liked travelling. Helen Furr did not care about trav- 
elling, she liked to stay in one place and be gay there. They were to- 
gether then and travelled to another place and stayed there and were 
gay there. 

They stayed there and were gay there, not very gay there, just gay 
there. They were both gay there, they were regularly working there 
both of them cultivating their voices there, they were both gay there. 
Georgine Skeene was gay there and she was regular, regular in being 
gay, regular in not being gay, regular in being a gay one who was 
one not being gay longer than was needed to be one being quite a gay 
one. They were both gay then there and both working there then. 

They were in a way both gay there where there were many culti- 
vating something. They were both regular in being gay there. Helen 
Furr was gay there, she was gayer and gayer there and really she was 

From Geography and Flays by Gertrude Stein, reprinted by permission of 
Eandom House, Inc. Copyright, 1922, by Gertrude Stein. 

360 



MISS FURR AND MISS SKEENE 


just gay there, she was gayer and gayer there, that is to say she found 
ways of being gay there that she was using in being gay there. She 
was gay there, not gayer and gayer, just gay there, that is to say she 
was not gayer by using the things she found there that were gay 
things, she was gay there, always she was gay there. 

They were quite regularly gay there, Helen Furr and Georgine 
Skeene, they were regularly gay there where they were gay. They 
were very regularly gay. 

To be regularly gay was to do every day the gay thing that they 
did every day. To be regularly gay was to end every day at the same 
time after they had been regularly gay. They were regularly gay. 
They were gay every day. They ended every day in the same way, 
at the same time, and they had been every day regularly gay. 

The voice Helen Furr was cultivating was quite a pleasant one. The 
voice Georgine Skeene was cultivating was, some said, a better one. 
The voice Helen Furr was cultivating she cultivated and it was quite 
completely a pleasant enough one then, a cultivated enough one then. 
The voice Georgine Skeene was cultivating she did not cultivate too 
n>uch. She dultivated it quite some. She cultivated and she would 
sometime go on cultivating it and it was not then an unpleasant one, it 
would not be then an unpleasant one, it would be a quite richly 
enough cultivated one, it would be quite richly enough to be a pleas- 
ant enough one. 

They were gay where there were many cultivating something. The 
two were gay there, were regularly gay there. Georgine Skeene 
would have liked to do more travelling. They did some travelling, 
not very "much travelling, Georgine Skeene would have liked to do 
more travelling, Helen Furr did not care about doing travelling, she 
liked to stay in a place and be gay there. 

They stayed in a place and were gay there, both of them stayed 
there, they stayed together there, they were gay there, they were 
regularly gay there. 

They went quite often, not very often, but they did go back to 
where Helen Furr had a pleasant enough home and then Georgine 
Skeene went to a place where her brother had quite some distinction. 
They both went, every few years, went visiting to where Helen Furr 
had quite a pleasant home. Certainly Helen Furr would not find it 

361 



GERTRUDE STEIN 


gay to stay, she did not find it gay, she said she would not stay, she 
said she did not find it gay, she said she would not stay where she did 
not find it gay, she said she found it gay where she did stay and she 
did stay there where very many were cultivating something. She 
did stay there. She always did find it gay there. , 

She went to see them where she had always been living and where 
she did not find it gay. She had a pleasant home there, Mrs. Furr was 
a pleasant enough woman, Mr. Furr was a pleasant enough man, 
Helen told them and they were not worrying, that she did not find it 
gay living where she had always been living. 

Georgine Skeene and Helen Furr were living wdiere they were both 
cultivating their voices and they were gay there. They visited where 
Helen Furr had come from and then they went to where they were 
living where they were then regularly living. 

There were some dark and heavy men there then. There were some 
who were not so heavy and some who were not so dark. Helen Furr 
and Georgine Skeene sat regularly with them. They sat regularly with 
the ones who were dark and heavy. They sat regularly with the ones 
who were not so dark. They sat regularly with the ones that were 
not so heavy. They sat with them regularly, sat with some of them. 
They went with them regularly went with them. They were regular 
then, they were gay then, they were where they wanted to be then 
where it was gay to be then, they were regularly gay then. There 
were men there then who tvere dark and heavy and they sat with 
them with Helen Furr and Georgine Skeene and they went with them 
with Miss Furr and Miss Skeene, and they went with the heavy and 
dark men Miss Furr and Miss Skeene went with them, and they sat 
with them, Miss Furr and Miss Skeene sat with them, and there 
were other men, some were not heavy men and they sat with Miss 
Furr and Miss Skeene and Miss Furr and Miss Skeene sat with them, 
and there were other men who were not dark men and they sat with 
Miss Furr and Miss Skeene and Miss Furr and Miss Skeene sat with 
them. Miss Furr and Miss Skeene went with them and they went 
with Miss Furi: and Miss Skeene, some who were not heavy men, 
some who were not dark men. Miss Fiirr and Miss Skeene sat regu- 
larly, they sat with some men. Miss Furr and Miss Skeene went and 
there were some men with them. There were men and Miss Furr and 


362 



MISS FURR AND MISS SKEENE 

Miss Skeene went with them, went somewhere with them, went with 
some of them. 

Heien Furr and Georgine Skeene were regularly living where very 
many were living and cultivating in themselves something. Helen Furr 
and Georgine Skeene were living very regularly then, being very 
regular then in being gay then. They did then learn many ways to be 
gay and they were then being gay being quite regular in being gay, 
being gay and they were learning little things, little things in ways of 
being gay, they were very regular then, they were learning very 
many little things in ways of being gay, they were being gay and using 
these little things they were learning to have to be gay with regularly 
gay with then and they were gay the same amount they had been gay. 
They were quite gay, they were quite regular, they were learning 
little things, gay little things, they were gay inside them the same 
amount they had been gay, they were gay the same length of time 
they had been gay every day. 

They were regular in being gay, they learned little things that are 
things in being gay, they learned many little things that are things in 
being gay, they were gay every day, they were regular, they were 
gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, 
they were quite regularly gay. 

Georgine Skeene went away to stay two months with her brother. 
Helen Furr did not go then to stay with her father and her mother. 
Helen Furr stayed there where they had been regularly living the 
two of them and she would then certainly not be lonesome, she would 
go on being gay. She did go on being gay. She was not any more gay 
but she was gay longer every day than they had been being gay when 
they were together being gay. She was gay then quite exactly the 
same way. She learned a few more little ways of being in being gay. 
She was quite gay and in the same way, the same way she had been 
gay and she was gay a little longer in the day, more of each day she 
was gay. She was gay longer every day than when the two of them 
had been being gay. She was gay quite in the way they had been gay, 
quite in the same way. 

She was not lonesome then, she was not at all feeling any need of 
having Georgine Skeene. She was not astonished at this thing. She 
would have been a little astonished by this thing but she knew she was 


363 



GERTRUDE STEIN 


not astonished at anything and so she was not astonished at this thing 
not astonished at not feeling any need of having Georgine Skeene, 

Helen Furr had quite a completely pleasant voice and it was qtiite 
well enough cultivated and she could use it and she did use it but 
then there was not any way of working at cultivating a completely 
pleasant voice when it has become a quite completely well enough 
cultivated one, and there was not much use in using it when one was 
not wanting it to be helping to make one a gay one. Helen Furr was 
not needing using her voice to be a gay one. She was gay then and 
sometimes she used her voice and she was not using it very often. It 
was quite completely enough cultivated and it was quite completely 
a pleasant one and she did not use it very often. She was then, she was 
quite exactly as gay as she had been, she was gay a little longer in the 
day than she had been. 

She was gay exactly the same way. She was never tired of being gay 
that way. She had learned very many little ways to use in being gay. 
Very many were telling about using other ways in being gay. She was 
gay enough, she was always gay exactly the same way, she was always 
learning little things to use in being gay, she was telling about using 
other ways in ‘being gay, she was telling about learning other ways in 
being gay, she was learning other ways in being gay, she would be 
usihg other ways in being gay, she would always be gay in the same 
w^ay, when Georgine Skeene was there not so long each day as when 
Georgine Skeene was away. 

She came to using many ways in being gay, she came to use every 
way in being gay. She went on living where many were cultivating 
something and she was gay, she had used every way to be gay. 

They did not live together then Helen Furr and Georgine Skeene. 
Helen Furr lived there the longer where they had been living regu- 
larly together. Then neither of them were living there any longer. 
Helen Furr was living somewhere else then and telling some about 
being gay and she^was gay then and she was living quite regularly 
then. She was regularly gay then. She was quite regular in being gay 
then. She remembered all the little ways of being gay. She used all the 
little ways of being gay. She was quite regularly gay. She told many 
then the way of being gay, she taught very many then little ways they 
could use in being gay. She was living very well, she was gay then, 
she went on living then, she was regular in being gay, she always was 

364 



MISS FURR AND MISS SKEENE 

living very well and was gay very well and was telling about little 
ways one could be learning to use in being gay, and later was telling 
them quite often, telling them again and again. 

GERTRUDE STEIN The youngest of five children of a fairly 
prosperous (German- Jewish family, Gertrude Stein was born on Feb- 
ruary 3, 1874, in Allegheny City, now a part of Pittsburgh, Pennsyl- 
vania. As a child she lived in Vienna, Paris, New York, and Baltimore. 
In her early childhood the family moved to Oakland, California. At 
the age of seventeen she returned to Baltimore, spent a winter there, 
and then went to Radcliffe College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
where she was a student of Hugo Miinsterberg and William James. 
The latter was one of the great influences upon her life and writing; 
through him she was introduced to one of the problems of the day in 
psychology, the meaning and extent of consciousness, or, as James 
called it, “the stream of consciousness.” To further her interest in {psy- 
chology she went to the Johns Hopkins Medical School but left with- 
out completing a few final requirements for her degree. She and her 
brother Leo, who later became well known as an art critic and aesthe- 
tician, went to London for a winter, then to Paris, where chiefly Ger- 
trude lived until her death on July 27, 1946. She and her brother soon 
disagreed and parted, and for the rest of her life Gertrude Stein lived 
with her friend, confidante, and secretary, Alice B. Toklas. 

Among those who frequented their studio apartment in Paris were 
artists, critics, and writers: Roger Fry, Jacob Epstein, Clive Bell, Ber- 
nard Berenson, Gertrude Atherton, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitz- 
gerald, Jo Davidson, Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, and Henri Matisse. 
In both World Wars she talked with a great many American soldiers 
in Paris and became a favorite with them, more as a person than as a 
writer. Only once, in 1934-1935, did she and Miss Toklas return to the 
United States, when Gertrude Stein made a successful lecture tour and 
taught a course in writing at the University of Chicago. 

Recognition as a serious artist came slowly. From the beginning of 
her writing career she experimented ceaselessly, although she disliked 
to have the term “experimental” applied to her work; she insisted that 
she knew what she was doing when she wrote differently from other 
people. While still in Radcliffe she had collaborated on an article con- 
cerned with experiments in automatic writing. In 1909 the Grafton 
Press published Three Lives ^ probably her most distinguished artistic 
achievement in fiction, although the least mannered. Each of the three 
stories deals with a woman: “The Good Anna,” “Melanctha,” and 
“The Gentle Lena.” “Melanctha,” the first serious study of Negro 
character in American fiction, is the most powerful and effective of 
the three. The other two are admirable in their simple and poignant 
treatment of two plain and undistinguished servants. This work was 


365 



GERTRUDE STE!N 


not reprinted tmtil 1933. Her next book, The Making of Americans ^ a 
massive masterpiece, was written in 1906- 1908 but was not published 
until 1925. A work of almost a thousand pages (in some editions it has 
been abridged), it deals with the lives of the Herslands (her own fam- 
ily) and the people around them. She writes here in what she calls 
the “continuous present,’’ to give an impression of life lived moment 
by moment. In this book and in the uncompleted “A Long Gay Book” 
she intended to attempt to create all types of characters; but when she 
became convinced that she actually could do so, if she only kept writ- 
ing long enough, she lost interest in the project. When she could find 
no publisher for The Making of Americans she turned to the writing 
of short sketches or “portraits” ^ of her friends and acquaintances: “I 
continued to do what I was doing in The Making of Americans ^ I was 
doing what the cinema was doing, I was making a continuous succes- 
sion of the statements of what that person was until I had not many 
things but one thing.” In these portraits she sometimes carried her ex- 
perimentation with language beyond the repetitive rhythmical patterns 
of her early works. Writing abstractly and relying more upon sug- 
gestion than upon direct statement, she approached in literature 
what some of her friends' at the same time were attempting in 
painting, cubism. That is, she emphasized line and unadorned form in 
order to bring out the essence of character and situation; the distortion 
which is to be found in cubism and in her writings merely serves to 
accentuate the reality. The portraits, as well as the plays which she 
wrote during this period, may be found chiefly in Geography and 
Flays (1922), Useful Kiiowledge (1928), Operas and Flays (1932), and 
Fortraits and Frayers (1934). The plays, like the portraits, break with 
tradition: a “five-act” play may cover three or four pages and have 
no dialogue in the usual sense. The best known of these plays is Four 
Saints in Three Acts^ which is the libretto for an opera (first per- 
formed in 1934) by Virgil Thomson. Her difScult abstraction and rich 
suggestiveness reach their height here and in Tender Buttons (1914), 
a much earlier work which, it has been said, “is to writing . . . ex- 
actly what cubism is to art.” Her descriptions of objects, food, and 
rooms become most abstract. Red roses in, a vase are described: “A 
cool red rose and a pink cut pink, a collapse and a sold hole, a little less 
hot.7 

The later fiction is also varied and experimental. Lucy Church Ami- 
ably (1930) is a simple story, with symbolic religious overtones, of a 
peasant girl and her preparations for marriage. Blood on the Dining- 
Room Moor (written 1933, published 1948) is her variation upon the 
detective story; like many of her works it contains numerous personal 
references. Ida (1941), in the picaresque tradition of episodic plot and 
quick change of setting, has a greater dash of humor than is found in 
the other works. 

366 



MISS FURR AND MISS SKEENE 


Several of her later works offer little difficulty to the reader un- 
versed in Steinian technique. The Autobiography of Alice B, Toklas 
(1933), her £rst commercial success, is also the best book to introduce 
Gertrude Stein as person and as writer. Everybody's Biography 
(1937), Wars 1 Have Seen (1945), and Brewsie and Willie^ published 
a short time before her death, are in similar style. 

From this varied production it is impossible to select one work and 
call it representative of the various facets of her experimentation. Pro- 
fessor Donald Sutherland, in the best book yet written on Gertrude 
Stein, divides her work into eight stylistic periods. These periods 
sometimes overlap, of course, but he lists them in this order: 1 ) Nat- 
uralism and the Continuous Present; 2) The Visible World as Simply 
Different; 3) The Visible World with Movement; 4) The Play as 
Movement and Landscape; 5) The Melodic Drama, Melodrama, and 
Opera; 6) Calligraphy and Melody; 7) Syntax as Movement, Vibra- 
tion, and Drawing; 8) History and Legend. This list, without the full 
discussion Professor Sutherland offers or without a fairly complete 
knowledge of Gertrude Stein’s work, means little, but at least it makes 
clear that she was a tireless experimenter. Perhaps a unifying principle 
in this range from simplicity to complexity is a remark she made in 
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, that she had “always been pos- 
sessed by the intellectual passion for exactitude in the description of 
inner and outer reality.” 

The style of Gertrude Stein has puzzled many people. In a brief 
discussion, perhaps the two elements to emphasize are repetition and 
rhythm. By repeating words, phrases, and sentences she builds up a uni- 
fied impression of the scene, object, person, or situation she describes. 
From many small entities, repeated with little or no change of pattern, 
comes the impression of the larger whole. Notice, for instance, how 
the repetitions of the word “gay” in slightly different contexts grad- 
ually develop varied implications of the word. By being constantly 
repeated, certain phrases become hypnotic. Notice, for example, that 
when Miss Furr and Miss Skeene are mentioned, they are mentioned 
in that order, never as Miss Skeene and Miss Furr. Rhythm is closely 
connected with repetition, and indeed derives partly from it in Ger- 
trude Stein’s work. She was always deeply conscious of actual speech 
rhythms. One of her great triumphs in “Melanctha” is in getting the 
rhythms of Negro speech she had heard in Baltimore; in Brewsie and 
Willie the speech of American soldiers has the flavor of actual GI 
speech. Her use of language sometimes suggests the incantatory style 
of primitive peoples, a parallel to the influence of African art upon the 
painters and sculptors of her day. 

^'Miss Furr and Miss Skeene” was included in Geography and Plays, 

Gertrude Stein wrote much to explain her work, almost as much 
exposition indeed as creative work, and her remarks are indispensable 

367 



GERTRUDE STEIN 


to the serious student: How to Write (1931), Lectures in America 
(1935), Narration (1935), What Are Masterpieces (1940). Critical 
aids may also be found in Rosalind S. Miller, Gertrude Stein: Form 
and Intelligibility (1949), which includes a group of English themes 
Gertrude Stein wrote at Radcliffe; W. G. Rogers, When This You See 
Remember Me: Gertrude Stein in Person (1948), an informal, chatty 
book, particularly valuable for an account of the lecture tour in 1934- 
1935; Donald Sutherland, Gertrude Stein: A Biography of Her Work 
(1951), the most complete and thorough treatment; Carl Van Vech- 
ten, Introduction to Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein (1946); 
Thornton Wilder, Introduction to Gertrude Stein’s Four in America 
(1947), the best short discussion. 

QUESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT 

1. Gertrude Stein once wrote: “In real master-pieces there is 
no thought.” Is there any thought in “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene”? 
Explain. If there is little or none, what compensates for the lack? In 
this connection, suggest and illustrate the most striking and effective 
qualities of this story or “portrait.” 

2. How well are the two women characterized? Describe and 
illustrate all the means or devices used for characterization. How is 
Miss Furr differentiated from Miss Skeene? How clearly are the men, 
Miss Furr’s parents, and Miss Skeene’s brother portrayed? 

3. Does this story have a plot? * If so, what is it? How does the 
plot compare in complexity with that of the first story in this book? 

4. Is this story more effective when you read it aloud than when 
you read it silently? If so, explain why. Do natural speech rhythms 
help to punctuate the sentences and paragraphs, even when no punc- 
tuation appears on the page? Is there any lack of clarity when you 
read it aloud? 

5. Note the vocabulary. Is it rich, varied, simple, monotonous? 
Are the words general or specific? Analyze a paragraph of medium 
length, about 150 words. How many words appear two, three, or more 
times in that paragraph? How many appear only once? What does the 
author gain by this repetition of words and phrases, repetition that 
would ordinarily be considered excessive? What does she lose? Con- 
sider in these connections such problems as: search for simplicity, an 
approximation of the normal thoughts and speech patterns of man, the 
possibility of a hypnotic effect upon the reader. 

6. What principles that you generally associate with an effective 
or attractive style are violated or ignored by Gertrude Stein? Is she 
therefore a poor or uninformed writer? Do you know any other au- 
thors who deviate markedly from your conception of a good, sound 
literary style? Discuss. Is Gertrude Stein more or less extreme than 
tihey? 

368